Today (Aug. 25) one of the US’s most ambitious and far-reaching innovations, the National Park Service, reached the milestone of 100 years of service. As the parks under its purview age and work to meet their multiple purposes of preserving and showcasing the nation’s amazing natural resources and beauty to the public and world for the next 100 years or more, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is helping the park service green its energy supply with solar, wind and other installations.
As part of the park service’s sustainability plan NREL is working with park service install energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, like solar panels on Alcatraz’s roof or at Yosemite. These installations are providing the parks with less expensive sources of energy than installing power lines or using diesel generators to produce power.
"NPS is seeking to install renewable energy across its portfolio, but with limited budgets and hundreds of parks across the country, it can be difficult to identify and prioritize the best opportunities," said Scott Haase, NREL's laboratory program manager for the Department of Interior (DOI). "The process we are working on now with NPS and Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) will help develop a robust pipeline of cost-effective projects that can be installed as agency funding or other financing becomes available."
One of the key ways NREL and the National Park Service are partnering is through the energy department’s FEMP. The lab provides technical assistance through the program that’s led to energy-efficient buildings at Zion National Park Visitor's Center in Utah and the Grand Canyon National Park Bookstore in Arizona. Now its working with Mesa Verde National Park to minimize energy consumption at its visitor's center, curation facility, and office space, using passive solar, photovoltaics, solar hot water, and a micro hydroelectric turbine for its energy.
"The partnership between FEMP and NPS is a great model for an agency-wide or building portfolio approach," said Rachel Shepherd, FEMP's Renewable Energy Program Manager. "NPS is building an efficient, comprehensive, and replicable project delivery process throughout the parks."
The two agencies are partnering for the future of the parks, too. NREL recently signed a five-year agreement with the DOI Sustainability Office to use NPS and FEMP funding to implement clean energy projects at ideal sites.
"What this agreement has allowed us to do—for the first time in the history of the National Park Service—is to analyze our current status and to understand the potential for renewable energy at the parks," said Shawn Norton, head of the NPS Sustainable Operations Branch. "It will help us develop a plan for moving the organization to a much higher percentage of renewable energy generated on our land."
The agencies have already identified six sites for renewable energy projects. The sites include Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska, Joshua Tree National Park in southern California, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California, Yosemite National Park in California, the Virgin Islands National Park on the island of St. John, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii.Tweet