Plans are being drawn up to build a solar farm in the shape of the famous Whipsnade chalk lion as ZSL Whipsnade Zoo looks to radically reduce its carbon footprint
The zoo says it wishes to install a photo-voltaic solar panel array in the shape of its iconic lion that would cover two acres of its 600-acre site and would produce 1MW of energy, providing a third of the electricity currently required to power the popular attraction.
The Solar Lion would be constructed at the opposite end of the zoo to the Whipsnade White Lion, ‘bookending’ the zoo with a second, enormous lion figure, and, although it will not be visible from the surrounding hills, will create a spectacle to be seen from the skies. It hopes to have it completed and operational by September 2022.
The Solar Lion is part of Whipsnade’s mission to make itself net zero carbon by 2035. Other plans to achieve this include reducing emissions caused by electricity and fossil fuel use for heating by 50% by 2030, as well as engaging with the zoo’s supply chain to reduce indirect emissions.
Owen Craft, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s chief operating officer said: “We are really excited about our plans for a Solar Lion to join our Whipsnade White Lion on the beautiful Chiltern Hills and even more excited about the difference she could make to the planet.
“As a global conservation charity, we know only too well the devastating effect climate change is having on the world’s wildlife, as well as on the survival of our own species. As we approach the United Nations climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow, we’re calling on world leaders to put nature at the heart of global decision making, and we’re committed to that ourselves.
“We must invest our time, energy and resources into reducing our carbon emissions to be as low as they can be, as quickly as we can, with innovations like the Solar Lion.
“I hope that our Whipsnade Solar Lion, when she is in place, will be a beacon of light reminding people that change is not only necessary, but possible.”
Find out more about ZSL’s sustainability plans at zsl.org/sustainability > The Whipsnade White Lion covers a total area of 6,525 square metres. It was designed by R.B. Brook-Greaves, and work began to create it in November 1931. By the following April, the rough outline of the 147 metre-long lion was visible on the side of the Dunstable Downs.
Ivinghoe Beacon was often used as a vantage point to check the accuracy of the outline. Almost two acres of land had to be cleared to reveal the chalk, and the lion was finally finished in the spring of 1933.
During the Second World War, the lion was covered to prevent it from being used by enemy aircraft as a navigation point. In May 1981, as part of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s 50th anniversary celebrations, the lion was illuminated using 750 lightbulbs.