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Energy SmartPARKS is a program formed through collaboration between the U.S. Departments of Energy and the Interior to help the National Park Service make America’s parks and landmarks more energy-efficient. Several examples are already in place, including one just down the street from Energy’s Washington, D.C., home — that example is the prominent Washington Monument, towering up 555 feet from the heart of our nation’s capital.

An advanced new lighting system for the Washington Monument greatly improves the monument’s lighting, and it also decreases the energy used to light the obelisk while increasing security in the area. Through the years, the monument has seen a few retrofits, but they always left it with dark areas and wasted up to 80 percent of the light shone in its direction.

Then, in 2005, Musco Lighting, a company specializing in lighting sports events, designed a new system using mirrors to create a bright, narrow ribbon of light that directs a beam about the same width and height as the monument directly at it. The new lighting fixtures eliminated the need for ground-level lighting vaults, which posed a security threat because people can hide behind them and in the shadows. While it saves 52,633 kWh per year and reduced carbon emissions by 36 tons annually, the new system is also twice as bright as the original system.

The Washington Monument’s lighting upgrades are only one example of energy savings across the country from simple retrofits fostered by the Energy SmartPARKS program. However, by funding projects at highly visible spots, NPS hopes to inspire smaller parks to get on board to help save energy and money.

“We also believe the parks are great places to demonstrate renewables and energy conservation technologies to our 250 million visitors at parks across the country each year,” Shawn Norton, branch chief for sustainable operations and climate change at NPS, said. “When visitors come to parks, they are in a state of mind where it’s a teachable moment — they are able to visualize doing these things in their own lives after seeing it in the park setting.”

DOE provides support to NPS with technical expertise and funding, and this collaboration is just another way the U.S. government is trying to lead by example when it comes to saving energy.