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Solar Power Comes to Fernwood

Friday, June 1st, 2007

Fernwood is now part of American Electric Power’s Learning from Light initiative that helps put solar on schools, museums, public zoos, and nature centers. If you visit the Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve, you can say “hi” to Peter van der Linden, the Executive Director. Peter wrote this blog story.

Here are a few views from Fernwood…images taken by photographer Jan Ferris.
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Fernwood is a botanical garden and nature preserve near Niles, Michigan. We provide a broad range of programs including environmental education for more than 5,000 school children annually. When offered the opportunity to have a solar demonstration on site, we were delighted to participate.

Fernwood’s mission is to increase people’s understanding and appreciation of nature, so solar power is a natural for us. Solar is an earth-friendly technology that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, which can be very polluting and contribute to global warming. We want our visitors to be aware of the alternatives, and what better way than to actually show them!

Our solar collectors are mounted above a wood fence near our Visitors Center, along a heavily trafficked sidewalk that doubles as a wheelchair ramp. They face south where they receive good sun exposure year round. The electricity they produce is routed into the Visitors Center, supplementing the power we receive from our utility company.

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We will be placing interpretive signs along the sidewalk, to draw attention to the project and educate our visitors about solar power. We also hope to set up a computer screen inside the Visitors Center so visitors can monitor the electricity produced by the collectors. Fernwood welcomes more than 25,000 visitors annually and we want them all to be more aware of solar power.  You can see what Fernwood’s system is producing by going to their public page on SMA’s SunnyPortal.

*Fernwood thanks the Foundation for Environmental Education for providing the solar collectors and Indiana Michigan Power for funding the project.*