Yosemite National Park activates solar array

4 Aug 2011

California’s Yosemite National Park is blazing a trail in the solar space as it has unveiled the largest ever grid-connected solar array for a national park, with the system set to supply about 12pc of the park’s electricity needs.

The 672KW solar PV array at the El Portal Administrative Complex consists of 2,800 solar panels and will produce about 800,000 kilowatt hours (KWh) per year, according to the park.

The project was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and cost US$5.8m to build.

The location of the array at the western edge of Yosemite National Park was chosen for the photovoltaic project due to the high amount of direct sunlight the site receives.

Yosemite estimates it will save about US$50,000 per year on electricity purchased off the grid (a 12pc reduction in electricity purchased off the grid) and is expecting to get a US$700,000 energy rebate from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (PG&E) over the next five years.

Solar Panels

Contractors completed the construction of the system in February 2011 and the interconnection agreement with PG&E was signed in late June 2011 after the utility company inspected it and installed equipment to connect the park’s solar panels to its grid.

Yosemite National Park superintendent Don Neubacher said it was a collaborative effort: “We are committed to being a leader in renewable energy and this project exemplifies our efforts.”
A 2MW solar array is already located at Fresno Yosemite International Airport.

Main photo: El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalveil Fall, and more of Yosemite Valley, as seen from Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park, which covers an area of 761,268 acres. Photo courtesy of Yosemite

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic