Greening the Parks: APS Gives a Solar Boost to Grand Canyon’s South Rim Visitor Center

The Canyon View Visitor Plaza on Grand Canyon’s South Rim will soon sport photovoltaic arrays. NPS photo.

Thanks to Arizona’s major power utility, Phoenix-based APS, solar panels will be soon be providing a significant share of the electrical power for the visitor center located at the Canyon View Visitor Plaza on the South Rim at Grand Canyon National Park. This is a win-win situation. The park’s main visitor center will be getting much of its electricity from a clean source. APS, for its part, will have a prime opportunity to publicize its green energy program to some 4.5 million park visitors.

Arizona’s abundant sunshine is a hugely important – and scarcely tapped – energy resource. The state’s boosters believe that Arizona has the potential to become the Solar Capital of the World. Eventually, they say, Arizona’s landscape will sprout vast numbers of photovoltaic arrays, solar power towers, and other solar systems capable of producing huge amounts of power to satisfy industrial-commercial, municipal, and residential needs. Meanwhile, demonstration projects like the one at the Canyon View Visitor Plaza are helping to pave the way.

At the Grand Canyon, it’s anticipated that the visitor center on the South Rim will be sporting about 84 roof- and ground-mounted solar panels by March. The array is designed to produce about 18 kilowatts of electricity, or enough to satisfy about 30 percent of the structure’s power requirements.

The money for the project, about $185,000, is being donated by APS' Green Rates program and the Arizona Corporation Commission's Renewable Energy Standard. These “green energy” programs, which are principally funded by APS’ customers, are designed to help move Arizona toward its goal of having at least 15 percent of the state's power needs supplied by solar and other renewable sources by 2025.

The visitor center will have exhibits that show how the building’s solar power system works. Real-time monitors will show how much electricity is being generated.