ZION – Superintendent Jock Whitworth is pleased to announce a new sustainable energy project at Zion National Park. As part of a climate-friendly initiative, a photovoltaic electrical generating system has been installed at park Headquarters, the Zion Human History Museum and the Emergency Operations Center. Whitworth added that “This system will produce renewable energy, reduce greenhouse gasses and significantly save utility costs, allowing us to move forward with one of our top priorities, which is to improve our sustainability by continued reduction of our carbon footprint.”
The project consists of an 85 kilowatt hour (kWh) photovoltaic (solar panel) system. The electricity produced will be approximately 15,810 kWh/month, or 189,720 kWh/year. To put this in perspective, the average American house uses 920 kWh/month, or 11,040 kWh/year. This means that the solar panels should produce enough energy to power around 17 homes annually. Along with a system already in place, this will make the park Emergency Operations Center virtually a net-zero energy building, meaning about equal amounts of electricity will be supplied to the electric grid as will be consumed by the building. The system will also produce 30% of the electricity for Park Headquarters and the Zion Human History Museum, and save 40% on demand charges from the utility company. The system should produce energy for at least 20 years.
Solar panel arrays for the system have been installed as prefabricated shade structures at the Park Headquarters employee parking area. The shade structures with PV panel coverings will provide power to the building and shade for vehicles. The shade will also diminish the reflected heat from the pavement, thereby reducing the temperature near the building. There are electrical charging stations built into the structure for current and future electric vehicles. The park has plans to acquire a fleet of electric vehicles that will be independent of fossil fuel energy sources.
By using renewable energy instead of energy derived from coal fired power plants, Zion is saving 172.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted. This is the equivalent weight of 190 school buses. With the other projects in the works, including a new 7 kWh system just installed at the Kolob Canyons Visitor Center, the park will produce 110 kWh of renewable electric energy within a year. In addition to producing renewable electricity, park-wide energy consumption is down 24% in the last 3 years from conservation alone.
The project was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.For more information on sustainable projects in Zion National Park and ways you can save energy, visit the park website at www.nps.gov/zion/naturescience/sustainability-in-zion.htm.