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Solar Panel Installations at National Parks

Jessica PirroFebruary 19, 20205980

Solar Power at National Parks in the United States

The American National Park Systems brings a lot of traffic to the United States. With the traffic coming in, there’s going to be a lot of carbon emissions. To preserve the natural beauty of the parks, a lot of the national parks are getting solar panel installations to combat carbon emissions.

Solar energy doesn’t only help lower greenhouse gas emissions on the public lands, but it addresses the issue of powering the thousands of remote “off-grid” sites within the National Park System with a very low environmental impact.

When it comes to paring new energy storage technologies, highly efficient solar panel installations can power critical systems for several days on end, even while the periods where the solar power system isn’t generating a lot of solar power.

The U.S. National Park Service is going to be officially committed to doing everything that they can to making sure that the environment stays as clean as possible. They have added renewable energy projects to a lot of locations to lower energy costs and provide reliable power to its most remote facilities.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley is a desert valley that is located in Eastern California, in the Mojave Desert and is one of the hottest places in the world, along with the deserts in the Middle East. This desert is will below sea-level and is extremely hot and dry in the summer, yet in the winter it’s very cold you can see it’s mountain tops capped with snow.

In February 2012, the Furnace Creek Visitor center was remolded. The remold included two solar power systems - one a 60-kW shade structure solar panel installation and the other a 30-kW field solar panel installation near the headquarters parking lot.

The cost of solar panel installation for this national park was $793,000. The solar power systems are expected to save 150 MWh/Year. Sarah Craighead spearheaded the project with FEMP Assistant feasibility study, funding assistance, design development, design review, and solar power system performance evaluation.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial 

The Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located in South Dakota. The national monument was sculpted into the Black Hills region of South Dakota. Construction began in 1927 under the supervision of Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln. The sculpture is 60-ft high and the carved out granite faces are U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. This attraction draws in millions of people.

The National Park has recently debuted a solar panel installation contains 975 solar panels. This solar power system is mounted on a carport structure, this new solar power system is going to provide more than half of the electricity that is used by the nearby Mount Rushmore restaurant and gift shop. The 346 kW solar power system is being used to help eliminate 50% of greenhouse gas emissions between 2014 and 2025. The solar panel installations are estimated to save the park operator $40,000 annually and are the second-largest solar panel installation in the state.

Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon is located in Arizona. The national park is layered with red rock with the Colorado River flowing through it. The national parks are one of the biggest attractions in the United States and millions come to see the wide views of the canyon and Colorado river.

The Grand Canyon was an early pioneer of the NPS Go Green campaign and the solar panel installation was completed in 1995. The solar power system is 1.44 kW and is estimated to reduce fuel costs and is installed at the visitor center lighting display, lighting, and computers. The spear header of this solar energy project was Curt Edland and FEMP assisted with design development, design review, funding assistance, and solar power system performance evaluation.

The North Rim’s integrated solar power system is going to be the primary power source for a combined contact station and ranger residence. The solar panel installation provides the visitor center with 50% of the power that it uses.

Glacier National Park 

This is one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States. This national park is located in Montana’s Rocky Mountains. It has glacier-craved peaks and valley to the Canadian border. The national park has more than 700 miles of hiking trails and over 130 lakes, and over 1,000 different kinds of plants. There are hundreds of different kinds of animals, included larger animals like grizzly bears, moose, and mountain goats and wolverines. There are hundreds of different kinds of birds, more than dozens of kinds of fish species, and even a few different kinds of reptile and amphibian species.

To preserve the natural beauty, the national park installed a 3.6 kW solar power system at the Goat Haunt International Visitor Center. The cost of solar panel installation was  $5,000 and was completed in 1994 and 2010. The visitor center is located just south of the Canadian border and gets its solar energy from over 3,600 W of solar panels. The rooftop solar panel installation that was done in 1994 was 1,250-W and the solar power system that was done in 2010 was 2,320-W. Both are integrated into the site to enhance visual quality.

Jim Foster was the project's champion and FEMP Assisted with design development, design review, funding, assistance, and solar power system performance evaluation. 99% of the visitor center’s electricity comes from micro-hydroelectric power supplied via an on-site dam, and the 1% is generated from the solar power systems.

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