WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – The National Zoo opened one of the world’s first solar-powered carousels to visitors on Monday, showing off its very ornate, hand-carved animals.

The Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel – named after the New Jersey-based family foundation that donated $1.5 million of the $2.3 million required to build the attraction – is a colorful site to see in and of itself, but then consider that it boasts a net-zero impact on the Zoo’s energy consumption.

a giant panda baltimore oriole and red eyed tree frog devin murphy smithsonians national zoo National Zoo Debuts One of Worlds First Solar Powered Carousels

A giant panda, Baltimore oriole and red-eyed tree frog. (Credit: Devin Murphy/Smithsonian’s National Zoo)

This flashy carousel runs solely on the 162 solar panels that were donated and installed by Pepco Energy Services, and any excess energy produced is diverted back to the zoo’s electrical grid.

“First and foremost, the carousel is a great attraction for the whole family,” said director of the National Zoo, Dennis Kelly. “But I’m hoping that the riders will be inspired by the conservation message. Some of the gorgeous animals reflect the great conservation success stories of our time while others represent animals we are racing to save.”

Visitors can ride on one of the carousel’s 58 hand-carved, hand-painted animals as they twirl past scenery panels depicting scenes from forest, grassland, savannah and aquatic habitats. They’ll look up to see more decorative panels atop the carousel; these displaying different migratory bird species.

For $3 a person, parents can learn with their children from the interactive digital dashboard that translates the energy the carousel saves into more familiar terms, like the the hours of video games that could be played using the same amount of energy.

The carousel will be open during regular zoo hours as well as during ZooLights, the zoo’s annual holiday-lights festival.

All proceeds raised from ticket sales support animal care and conservation science initiatives at the National Zoo.

Click here for more information.

crocodile on the speedwell foundation conservation carousel devin murphy smithsonians national zoo National Zoo Debuts One of Worlds First Solar Powered Carousels

Crocodile on the Speedwell Foundation Conservation Carousel. (Credit: Devin Murphy/Smithsonian’s National Zoo)


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