San Francisco Department of the Environment

Case Study: Wind Turbine Powers San Francisco Zoo

Hundreds of animals live at the San Francisco Zoo, but now the Zoo is home to a different type of attraction…a sustainability exhibit, featuring a vertical-axis wind turbine. Together with a small solar panel, the wind turbine powers LED lights in the historic Earthquake Shack which has been restored and converted into an interpretive center.
Joe Fitting, VP of Education and Conservation at the SF Zoo, chose a turbine designed and installed by local San Francisco company, Blue Green Pacific. The system is connected to a battery backup and officially became operational in April 2010.

Fitting says he “wanted a demonstration site to show alternatives and how they could be used in interesting ways.” In addition to the wind turbine and solar panel, old informational signs and garbage cans have been re-purposed into planter boxes which grow food for the animals. Zoo interpreters are on-site to educate visitors about alternative energy, conservation, and re-use.

The Zoo’s conservation efforts extend beyond the new sustainability exhibit, improving day-to-day operations. Working with PG&E, the Zoo recently completed a total lighting retrofit, changing all the lights to energy efficient fluorescent tubes, and the SF Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is helping them change the toilets and bathroom faucets to low-flow fixtures.

Through extensive waste management, the SF Zoo diverts 75% of its solid waste away from the landfill every month by recycling, composting, and re-using materials. Waste sorting stations are set up around the Zoo to let guests know how to dispose of items in the proper bin. While the human guests are still learning, the Zoo’s hundreds of animal species already have their waste taken care of. Every year the SF Zoo composts over one million pounds of animal waste!

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