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Climate change is impacting so much around us: heat, flooding, health, wildlife, housing, and more. WUSF, in collaboration with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, is bringing you stories on how climate change is affecting you.

Selby Gardens is the first botanical garden complex to generate more solar power than it needs

Aerial view of Selby Gardens' Downtown Sarasota Campus with solar panels on top of the large complex.
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens
Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Downtown Sarasota Campus plans to generate 1.27 million kilowatt-hours of power per year through its new solar panel network — that output, which is enough to power 175 average American homes, is expected to exceed all the facility’s energy demands by 10%.

Phase one of this three-part expansion includes a new restaurant, welcome center, plant research center and gift shop.

The world's first "net positive" energy botanical garden complex and restaurant came online recently in Sarasota.

With over 2,000 new solar panel arrays, the downtown Sarasota campus of Marie Selby Botanical Gardens plans to produce more power than it consumes.

The 57,000 square feet of new solar panels aims to offset 975 tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is like taking over 200 cars off the road.

Carbon dioxide traps heat into the atmosphere, which warms the planet, causes sea levels to rise, and contributes to the rapid intensification of hurricanes.

The 15-acre bayfront sanctuary also estimates it will save $100,000 annually in energy costs.

"We're thrilled for our community because not only is Selby Gardens a model, but it makes Sarasota and the state of Florida international models for sustainability," said Jennifer Rominiecki, Selby's president and CEO.

She said Selby's role is to advance plant research and conservation, while also building awareness about the importance of plants — and the solar panels fit in with that.

"In upholding that aspect of what we do, we really felt that environmental sustainability in every way should be typified in our new structures, and I'm thrilled to say that we've achieved that," Rominiecki said.

Phase one of this three-part expansion includes a new welcome center, a new plant research center and a new gift shop.

It also introduced the world’s first 100% solar-powered restaurant.

“We are officially setting a new standard for botanical gardens, and for restaurants,” she said.

The next phases include net positive energy glass houses for research, an indoor-outdoor learning pavilion, and fixing docks and sea walls.

My main role for WUSF is to report on climate change and the environment, while taking part in NPR’s High-Impact Climate Change Team. I’m also a participant of the Florida Climate Change Reporting Network.