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Carousels, Ferris wheels and amusement parks go solar

April 15, 2011 |  5:51 pm

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It's not just joy and model ponies that makes this merry-go-round spin. Solar power is doing most of the pushing.

After General Electric’s Carousolar debuted at the South by Southwest festival at Austin, Texas, in March, more than 10,000 SXSW attendees rode the attraction.

The all-white machine looks like something Tron would ride. It’s powered by 72 of GE’s 80-watt thin-film solar panels set up to the side and lit up by the company’s LED lights, which together stretch a third of a mile.

GE rebuilt an old Allan Herschell Co. carousel from Arkansas. Among the 30 horses, two chariots and two chickens, some of the parts were nearly a century old. Workers stripped the ancient three-phase AC motor and replaced it with a quieter motor from an electric car.

In January, the Crealy Great Adventure Park near Exeter in England announced that it would run rides at the 100-acre attraction using solar power. During the peak summer months, the sun is expected to generate 90% of the park’s power using 200,000 square feet of photovoltaic panels.

Even the Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier runs on solar.

GE, meanwhile, has big plans for its solar business, in which it plans to invest more than $600 million. The company said last week that it plans to build a massive, 400-megawatt, thin-film manufacturing facility to accommodate more than 100 megawatts of new orders for thin-film solar products.

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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: GE's Carousolar. Credit: General Electric

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