These hybrid Ford Escape vehicles at Grand Teton National Park were purchased with support from the Clean Cities National Parks Initiative. Photo | NREL

The National Park Service (NPS) offers breathtaking views, miles of hiking trails, and historic sites that captivate hundreds of millions of visitors each year. But, did you also know that you might be exploring a number of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) initiatives as well? These energy efficiency and renewable energy projects enhance the park experience and preserve our historic sites and natural wonders.

Energy Efficient Buildings

DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) provided support to the NPS through the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) to help design energy-efficient buildings for the Zion National Park Visitor's Center in Utah and the Grand Canyon National Park Bookstore in Arizona. NREL has also worked with Mesa Verde National Park to minimize energy consumption and maximize the use of photovoltaics (PV), solar water heating, and micro-hydropower in a building that serves as a visitor's center, curation facility, and office space.


Solar-Powered Cells

Another project includes one of the most iconic U.S. prisons, Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay. The historic site serves as host to a 307-kilowatt (kW) PV system, as well as to 1.4 million visitors each year. The prison features 959 crystalline-silicon solar panels that power computers, phones, appliances, pumps, lighting, and a few large peak loads such as an elevator in the Cellhouse building and a lift at the dock. FEMP also provides assistance with optimal operations strategies and battery maintenance issues.


Hydrogen Refueling Station

DOE partnered with NPS in 2016 to launch a new technology demonstration hydrogen refueling station in our nation’s capital. The station incorporates DOE-funded electrolysis technology advancements and can produce roughly 65 kilograms of hydrogen per day – enough to fuel about twelve cars per day for an approximate 300-mile driving range each.

 Alternative Fuels and Fuel-Efficient Vehicles

The Vehicle Technologies Office partners with the NPS through the Clean Cities National Parks Initiative to provide technical assistance and support for transportation projects that educate park visitors on the benefits of cutting petroleum use and vehicle emissions. Since 2010, Clean Cities and NPS have partnered on 35 projects to deploy alternative fuel and fuel-efficient vehicles to the road, reduce vehicle idling, and improve vehicle efficiency.

Earlier this month Great Smoky Mountains National Park unveiled two new propane fueling stations and six new propane-powered Ford F250 crew cab trucks. This new equipment will help the park to reduce petroleum use and emissions. The NPS website notes that there are currently 127 alternative transportation systems in 64 parks. Recent projects include Rocky Mountain National Park, Denali National Park and Preserve, and Mammoth Cave National Park. 

To see these technologies and our national parks, plan your visit here. See you at the parks!