First Ward Park Combines Air and Sun with Smartflower

Jul 08, 2021

Mecklenburg County in North Carolina believes in leading by example when it comes to environmental sustainability. Its Environmental Leadership Policy, passed in 2004, states that they will “conserve and protect our air, water, and land resources, become a model of environmental stewardship for local governments, business and industry in our region, and use and apply the County’s existing and future resources wisely for the benefit of its citizens.” That is exactly why a Smartflower was installed at First Ward Park, a public 4-acre park operated in Charlotte, NC by Mecklenburg County. The Smartflower is connected to First Ward Park’s general electrical system, meaning that the energy it produces will offset park lighting, restrooms, its upcoming Air Quality Learning Station (AQLS), and all other electrical uses.



Smartflower was first introduced to Mecklenburg County Air Quality (MCAQ) by a vendor at the beginning stages of designing their Air Quality Learning Station, a public air quality outreach and education piece that is now installed at First Ward Park. The solar flower turned out to be a great complement to both the Air Quality Learning Station and the goals of the County, so how could they say no?

“We needed a visually appealing and engaging solar energy source to accompany the educational side of the Air Quality Learning Station. The Smartflower’s bright color and eye-catching aesthetics provide just what we needed to attract the public’s attention and get them interested,” said PJ McKenzie, Air Quality Specialist at Mecklenburg County Air Quality.

Attention is definitely what the First Ward Park Smartflower attracts. Passersby and members of the community are drawn to the Smartflower, often approaching Mecklenburg County Air Quality staff (including PJ himself!) to learn more about the solar system and the Air Quality equipment. Interest in the Smartflower is sure to skyrocket when the Air Quality Learning Station is officially unveiled in the next few months, and staff are eager to include it in all future education and outreach events at the park. “It’s exciting and rewarding to know that our citizens are so interested in air quality and environmental issues,” said PJ.

Combining the Air Quality Learning Station with the Smartflower makes Mecklenburg County’s air quality project unique, elevating it from beyond a sensor station to something completely iconic. It connects the importance of good air quality to the need for renewable energy and encourages visitors to think about how they can contribute to mitigating climate change.

According to PJ, “We at Mecklenburg County Air Quality are committed to reducing air pollution through multiple avenues that engage public and private entities. This includes the County’s policy to reduce its carbon emissions. We believe that the Smartflower is a great way to communicate the importance of green, sustainable energy sources and the importance of reducing air pollution through cleaner energy production. The Smartflower synchronizes perfectly with the County’s goals to reduce our environmental impact.”



Learn more about Mecklenburg County Air Quality at

Want to read up on other Smartflower installations? Click here.

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