Solar Museum Proposed for Arizona

A campaign has started in Arizona to become the first in a network of solar museums around the world.

TUCSON, Arizona, US, 2001-04-26 <> The ‘Museum of the Sun’ has attracted engineers, students, architects, professors, business people, public relations and marketing professionals who want to use a museum in Tucson as an outreach, marketing and educational vehicle to demonstrate the power of the sun. “Our goal is to accelerate the awareness and acceptance of solar and other renewable energy,” explains Ann Heatly. “We believe if people can directly experience the awesome power of the sun they will believe in solar energy, even without an understanding of the technology involved.” “It would change peoples’ attitudes about solar as a viable energy source,” she adds. ” And when you change attitudes you can change everything.” The proposed building will be a study in energy efficiency and use renewable resources as a “monument to the sun.” The architecture will incorporate the creative use of sunlight and become a social landmark that would become a venue for receptions, concerts and events. Organizers are considering an international competition to find a combination of engineer, architect and builder that could meet “unreasonable” efficiency standards and still create an awesome architectural monument, she says. Highly visible monitors will display temperature variations to tell the story of the building and its energy efficiency. Tucson has been selected as the site for the museum because the Arizona city enjoys more sunshine than any other city in the United States, about 350 days a year. It has a downtown redevelopment underway, called Rio Nuevo, and the Museum of the Sun has been cited in that Master Plan as a future project. Funds and land have been set aside for such future projects and the master planners have endorsed the museum concept. Tucson was the site of the first International Solar Energy Congress 50 years ago, and the world’s largest solar observatory is located on Kitt Peak, with a greater concentration of observatories near Tucson than anywhere else on earth. The museum would become a vehicle for positive media attention to solar power, and a catalyst for new ideas and developments in solar power, explains Heatly. It would create awareness and educate the public about the dangers of sun exposure and skin cancer, and create a solar “theme park” to attract the widest possible audience. It would include computer games where players construct the most energy efficient building, a huge digital sundial that would be visible from the nearby freeway, a world UV and global warming meter, exhibits on photosynthesis, and a ‘Gran Prix’ track for racing solar-powered cars. In 1955, the Association for Applied Solar Energy was formed in Tucson, and the university campus hosted a two-day conference on solar energy which attracted delegates from 36 countries. The International Solar Energy Society was incorporated in Arizona, although its headquarters is in Freiburg, Germany. Through the Rio Nuevo Museums and Libraries Consortium, the Museum will become a Smithsonian Affiliate this month, which will enable it to host traveling Smithsonian exhibits and display its own exhibits at the Washington landmark. The concept has been endorsed by the Tucson Institute for Sustainable Communities, Tucson Metropolitan Energy Commission and Southern AZ Chapter of the Association of Energy Engineers.

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