Smart City San Diego smart grid initiative continues at San Diego Zoo

The last time DistribuTECH Conference & Exhibition was in San Diego coincided with another milestone in San Diego’s involvement in smart grid technology. Two years ago, the Smart City San Diego initiative kicked off at the University of California at San Diego.

At the time, the initiative had five main goals: to use smart technology to enable rapid electric vehicle growth, to streamline home and public charging deployment processes, to research and demonstrate systems to power electric vehicles using renewable energy, to deliver economic growth to San Diego and to study consumer behavior to better understand their decisions and identify additional electric vehicle initiatives.

Since 2011, the initiative has grown in scale and expanded its focus to include new goals. These include supporting the state of California in meeting its renewable energy portfolio goals (33 percent by 2020), educating customers about how to manage their energy use, automating the electric grid with devices that enable two-way communication, and demonstrating the value of a smarter grid through public projects and displays.

Groups that have come on board for this initiative include a wide variety of local and international energy companies — from GE to San Diego Gas & Electric, the latter of which is DistribuTECH 2013’s host utility.

Last time I was in San Diego for DistribuTECH, I helped lead a technical tour through UC-San Diego’s campus facilities, many of which were employing smart energy technology. There we saw photovoltaic solar arrays built into a parking garage, experimental energy storage projects, and fueling stations for alternative energy vehicles.


This time around, I learned that some of the latest activity happening under the Smart City San Diego initiative is happening at the world-famous San Diego Zoo — a 100-acre property that is home to more than 3,700 animals of more than 650 species and subspecies.

Smart City San Diego launched the nation’s first Solar-to-EV project at the San Diego Zoo. The 90-kW solar canopies directly charge five electric vehicle charging stations located in the zoo parking lot, as well as storing solar power for the future use with a 100-kwh energy storage system featuring new battery technology.

The Solar-to-EV project serves as a new energy infrastructure blueprint that can be replicated throughout the region and beyond. Located in the heart of San Diego’s Balboa Park, the zoo is visited by more than 3.5 million people each year.

Installing the Solar-to-EV project at the zoo was an important opportunity to showcase the region’s commitment to clean energy for both locals and visitors from across the globe. Additionally, the zoo site provides additional charging options for electric vehicle drivers.

California has established the most aggressive greenhouse-gas (GHG) reduction goals in the nation. With almost 40 percent of California’s GHG emissions coming from transportation, the state’s goal to reduce transportation GHG by more than 13 million tons by 2020 is aggressive. Integrating clean transportation alternatives will be critical to achieving these goals.

The carbon dioxide saved by the Solar-to-EV project is equal to:

“-          Providing energy at peak capacity to power 59 homes.

“-          Removing 189,216 lbs. of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“-          Planting 2,788 trees and allowing them to grow for ten years.

“-          Removing 21 cars from the road each year.

Smart City San Diego collaborated with Daimler’s car2go to launch the first all-electric vehicle car sharing service in North America. The car2go service offers new and flexible mobility for San Diegans with a fleet of 300 smartfortwo vehicles and has become an immensely popular clean transportation option for the region.

Smart City San Diego worked with city leaders and stakeholders to educate the community about car2go’s benefits and took a leadership role in driving increased public charging infrastructure to support the program. Data gained from car2go is providing essential information on where electric vehicle charging stations are most needed in San Diego.

Previous articleDespite smog, China is making progress cleaning up polluted cities
Next articleIberdrola Renewables completes new wind farms
The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

No posts to display