Co-ops support all-electric tram at local zoo - Great River Energy

Co-ops support all-electric tram at local zoo

Visitors to the Hemker Park & Zoo can now enjoy a smooth, quiet ride on an electric tram while they observe animals from around the world thanks in part to funds provided by Stearns Electric Association.

The co-op, along with its wholesale power provider Great River Energy, used a portion of its annual Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) funding to support the Freeport, Minnesota-based family-friendly zoo. The electric tram arrived at the end of July and now provides transportation and a brief tour for zoo guests.

CIP is a state program that establishes energy-saving requirements for all Minnesota utilities, including electric cooperatives, to realize annual energy savings equal to at least 1.5% of annual electricity sales and to spend at least 1.5% of their gross operating revenues on programs to achieve this goal.

“Stearns Electric is committed to helping our member-consumers make efficient energy upgrades that benefit their business operations,” said John Pantzke, Stearns Electric’s business development representative. “When Hemker Park & Zoo approached us with their idea to purchase an all-electric tram, we were very excited to be part of this new electric vehicle project … and even more proud to provide the electricity needed to charge [it].”

Qualified CIP energy savings are typically achieved when electric utility consumers make energy-efficiency improvements in their homes and businesses, such as installing LED lighting, purchasing ENERGY STAR® appliances and enrolling in utility load control programs to help manage peak energy demand. Electric vehicle charging also qualifies for CIP funding.

“We get visitors from all walks of life at Hemker Zoo. With such a large space, it can be challenging for some of our visitors to enjoy all areas of the zoo. The new electric tram helps change that,” said Joan Hemker, who owns Hemker Zoo. “The two-cart tram can accommodate over 15 passengers at once and provides handicap accessibility for those who need it. And since the tram is electric, it provides a smooth, quiet ride for those on board, which is especially nice for our elderly visitors.”

All visitors can now take a ride on the tram to learn more about the animals residing at Hemker Park & Zoo.

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