Peter Drury/Waikato TimesSolar power generation is being used at Hamilton Zoo to heat the Rhino beds.
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
Hamilton Zoo Director Stephen Standley with the solar panel used to generate power for a heat pad in the rhino enclosures.
There are, probably, fewer unhappier sights than a cold and wet rhinoceros.
However, Hamilton Zoo's hefty herd of white rhino are now being kept warmer and drier through the energy of the sun and some smart technology.
The zoo has recently completed installation of a photo-voltaic solar panel in the savannah enclosure, the large area that is home to several of the zoo's African species.
The panel absorbs and converts the sun's energy into a usable power source to heat special rubber-covered pads in the Rhinos' night enclosure - a boon for the resident bull Kruger and cows Moesha, Imani, Kito and Jamila.
Although the rhinos' natural African habitat has temperatures similar to New Zealand, the Hamilton climate is much wetter than the African wilderness. The animals - weighing up to two tonnes each - need their stalls to be dried out from time to time.
The project, which cost about $10,000, was a joint initiative involving zoo staff, Hamilton City Council's energy team, installation firm S4 Solar and solar energy technology company Enphase. Enphase supplied the microinverters that convert the power from each solar module directly to AC electricity - the same power from a wall socket.