Living Green: Solar panels go up at Mote Marine Lab

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SARASOTA - Mote Marine Lab works to protect and study marine wildlife and the environment they live in. This week, they're taking a bigger step in that effort with some help from the sun.

126 new photovoltaic panels are being installed on the roof of Mote Marine Lab's Marine Mammal Research and Rehabilitation Center. All of the sea turtles, dolphins and small whales that receive treatment at Mote will benefit from this system.

"So it's a wonderful thing, now we're using solar power to keep them happy rather than electric power," say Mote Marine Lab President and CEO Kumar Mahadevan.

The panels were donated by Willis A. Smith Construction, a local company that specializes in building sustainable facilities.

"I think you could call this the gift that keeps on giving, because not only is this system going up something that we're providing for Mote but it's also going to save them about $6,000 a year for the life of the system at today's energy rates," says David Sessions, President of Willis A. Smith Construction.

Mote Marine hopes this is just the first of many more solar systems to be installed here. But they'll need more donors like Willis Smith to make that happen in the future. "We have so much roof space that we can do a lot and we thought this would be first place to start and a part of the reasoning is that the sun access should be very ideal so is one of the most ideal locations so they started here, but actually there's probably hundreds of places if you take our aquaculture park and here that we can put panels on," says Mahadevan.

Solar panels are also making electricity at Mote's Aquaculture Park in eastern Sarasota County. An individual donor, Jim Lampl, helping create power at Mote's fish farm. For more information on Mote Marine Lab's Sustainable Energy Initiative, visit