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Yosemite National Park To Install Large Solar Energy Complex At El Portal


The largest solar energy complex in the National Park System will be built just outside Yosemite National Park and, when operational, will essentially double the amount of electricity generated via renewable energy for the National Park Service's Pacific West Region.

The grid-connected 539-kilowatt photovoltaic generation system that will be built near El Portal, California, beginning in June is being paid for with $4.4 million the Park Service received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“This project exemplifies how Yosemite, the Pacific West region, the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior and the President are trying to lead the way in making our facilities climate-friendly,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a prepared statement.

“We are very excited about this project and grateful that the Recovery Act funding became available for us to begin the installation this summer,” added Yosemite Superintendent Don Neubacher. “This energy-saving photovoltaic project reflects Yosemite National Park’s commitment to sustainable and renewable energy sources.”

The rooftop and shade-structure mounted solar panels, to be installed beginning this summer at the El Portal Maintenance Complex, are expected to generate approximately 800,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. This will result in almost a 12 percent savings on electricity purchased off the grid, the Park Service said.

El Portal, the park’s administrative center, was chosen as the location for the solar panels based on the high amount of direct sunlight the site receives.

The solar panels will be installed on the roofs of existing buildings and on newly constructed shade structures in which government vehicles will be parked under. At 13 cents per kilowatt hour, the park is projecting a savings of up to $104,000 per year.


the reflective glow of solar panels, especially near any water source like river or lake, will appear more like water than the real thing to birds, aquatic insects, and many other species. dragon, may, and damselflies will lay their eggs on solar panels which quickly fry the eggs. this is not acceptable no matter what the economic "savings". read page 21 of the latest issue of "on earth" (nrdc) quote: "if you overlay the dark surfaces with a thin white grid, the insects will pass over the panels". also, migrating birds are confused and distracted by the reflections of solar panels. they are not what they seem. conservation may be a better solution for the time being.

Solar power makes sense in remote locations where supplying grid power might not be practical, and the National Parks has plenty of them. Also, there's more to this equation than just money, like reduced depedendence on coal-fueled grids.

Ah, yes. The stimulus. A giant waste of money we don't have. Check into whether these solar panels were manufactured in the U. S or China. Since there will be no energy cost savings here, if the government wanted to employ Americans, the money could have been better spent on a summer youth employment program building trails. The Central Valley of California has a high unemployment rate. But then young people don't make huge campaign contributions.

Working on it, Kath. Project was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

After I posted the above comment, it struck me how naive I was being. I kept pondering how someone in Yosemite management couldn't have run the numbers in two minutes like coolmom and I did and easily figure out that this was never going to save anything in electricity costs. No sensible homeowner (particularly one drowning in debt like our country) would spend money on something that would never recoup its costs. So that wasn't the real reason this solar equipment was put in. Kurt, interested in winning a Pulitzer? Look into who the solar company is or who the contractor is and see how much in campaign donations they made and to whom. How was this project approved? Was it an earmark or did someone pressure Yosemite management into doing this? Or did Yosemite have some extra money lying around they had to spend in order to justify asking for more in next year's budget so they threw this money away on something that sounds very politically correct like solar? Either way it's just another example of how the government wastes our money and the next time the NPS cries that they aren't being sufficiently funded, I won't be feeling sorry for them.

Exactly, coolmom. And since this is borrowed money, it will take even longer for the 'investment' to be recouped. Yosemite would have been wiser to look over their electric bill, see where cuts to electrical use could be made immediately, change all bulbs using energy efficient bulbs, go to Home Depot and buy those devices that turn off lights when there is no movement in a room, all sorts of much cheaper, faster ways to save electricity.

But the government likes its toys and it's press release eye-catching news headlines and most people ooh and aah and say "isn't it nice that Yosemite's going green" without ever really evaluating whether this solar project makes sense or not.

Am I crazy or what.. at a savings of $104,000 each year in electrical expenses, the investment of 4.4 million will be recovered in roughly 42 years. Last time i checked a solar panel last for 20 years and it starts to loose some of its efficiency after a few years. Hummm ok what is wrong with this picture?

Just read the article on how Big Bend is saving electricity and the night sky. They are saving 98% on their electricity bill by using lower wattage bulbs and other fixes. Great! The photos show the reduction in light pollution so that visitors can see that the 'stars at night, burn big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas'. That just popped into my head, ha.

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