Solar panels give Cincinnati Parks a big energy boost

When the sun is out, you can find Carina Griggs and her daughter strolling along near Mirror Lake at Eden Park. If you look closely, you may also see solar panels on top of the restrooms.

"I think it's fantastic that the parks are using renewable energy (because) they save money and are more able to provide activities and equipment for children, because as a mother that 's really important to me," Carina said.

Since 2006, Cincinnati Parks has installed more than 1,000 solar panels at various locations in more than 100 parks. The panels harness natural energy from the sun. That energy is used to power things like this LED sign at Krohn Conservatory.  Gerald Checco, Cincinnati Parks Superintendent of Operations says the solar program is a big winner for everyone who enjoys Cincinnati parks.

"We have been able to avoid the increase in energy cost, the equivalent of about $200,000 total since the inception of the program," Checco said.

The latest solar panels have been installed at Smale Riverfront Park. One sits above the awning at the visitor's and bike rental office. The other covers the rooftop of the entertainment stage on the even lawn. The panels even work to supply power to Geo-thermal water pumps which keep the parks fountains flowing.

Checco says the panels produce enough energy to power small communities.

"We have had three full years now of complete solar energy produced by about one thousand solar panels. It represents about 280,000 kilowatt hours a year, about what it would take to power 40-50 houses."

And it all starts with a little sunshine.

In 2011, the Cincinnati Park Board won a state award and national recognition for its solar energy program.

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