Unique solar power 'plants' brighten up children's museum - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Unique solar power 'plants' brighten up children's museum

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A new outdoor exhibit at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport is a creative way to teach children about clean energy. The exhibit features a solar power system in the shape of two sunflowers. A new outdoor exhibit at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport is a creative way to teach children about clean energy. The exhibit features a solar power system in the shape of two sunflowers.
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

Visitors to the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport will notice a colorful new exhibit that just came out of the ground. It looks like a popular type of flower, but operates like a miniature power plant. The exhibit is considered the only one of its kind in Mississippi.

The exhibit started taking root on the grounds of the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center about a month ago. It resembles two very tall sunflowers towering 8.5 feet in the air. The floral structures are actually solar-power steel-framed plants.

"We want to be the first probably along the coast, as well as the state, to be a premiere destination for new technology. As you can see, the sunflowers are definitely going to be a state-of-the-art project that no other place along the coast or the state will have," said Cindy DeFrances, Executive Director of the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center.

On Wednesday, about 70 people gathered at the children's museum for a ribbon cutting ceremony, celebrating the unique Powering Renewal Project. The flower petals are solar panels that convert the sun's energy into electricity.

The system is helping to power the museum, which could mean energy savings of up to $40 a month. Visitors can learn how the process works through monitors located inside the museum.

"It shows how much power is being generated by the solar sunflowers, as well as gives more information about how solar energy can be used at your house," said DeFrances.

Those who planted the larger-than-life blooms see their budding potential to educate and encourage children to think about clean energy. 

"What happens when the oil dries up out there?" asked Tina Shumate, MDMR Coastal Management & Planning Director. "The children, they are our future. They're the ones that are going to lead us. And we're old and gray and can't do it anymore, how do we continue to have our energy?"

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources spear-headed the solar sunflower project. It was funded by a $50,000 CIAP grant.

There are two other solar structures in the Powering Renewal Project. Rooftop solar panels are located at the MDMR's Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in east Jackson County.  And a solar LED lighting system is set up at the USM Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs.

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