National Park Service Aims to be Carbon-Neutral

Going green — By Stephanie on February 23, 2011 at 6:11 am

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The Painted Hills in John Day, Oregon (photo credit: h.rav on Flickr)

The first National Park Service house in the United States has achieved net zero energy here in Central Oregon.  At the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (a gorgeous area that anyone who comes to Oregon should visit, by the way), a small house has been outfitted with solar panels, will generate clean electricity to power the electric vehicle driven by the park ranger and the information kiosk installed to help visitors.

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Solar panels at the National Park Service house at the Painted Hills Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds

The John Day Fossil Beds facility will feed back into the grid more electricity than it will consume.  With the National Park Service aiming to be carbon-neutral, the facility here in Oregon will demonstrate energy efficiency possibilities for other NPS locations across the country.  In fact, the Park Service’s director has challenged parks to be as energy efficient as possible, avoiding the use of any fossil fuels.

While the Painted Hills building is the first NPS house to be carbon-neutral, an intern center in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California was actually the first National Parks facility to meet the criteria.

Jim Hammet, superintendent of the Fossil Beds, stated that the carbon-neutral National Park Service house in Central Oregon was modeled after designs that achieved net-zero energy in residential homes.  The Park Service worked with Zero Energy Plans in Washington State to develop the ranger’s house which generates more energy than it consumes.

Details such as positioning the windows to maximize sunlight exposure, framing with built-in foam insulation and using energy-efficient appliances were also employed.  The design includes both PV solar panels for electricity and solar hot water panels.

The National Park Service ranger house is an example not only for other NPS facilities, but homeowners, too.  The 24 solar panels installed on the home generate about 7,000 kilowatts of power each year.  Excess solar electricity will charge up a Chevy Volt electric car to drive over 5,000 miles annually.  The Painted Hills house is 1,000 square feet and cost only $200 per square foot to build.

It only makes sense that the National Park Service is aiming to be carbon-neutral.  Many of its resources have already been impacted by global climate change, including iconic parks such as Glacier National Park.  Let’s hope that other facilities owned and operated by the Parks Service are able to achieve net zero energy, minimize their carbon footprint and show park visitors how to live green, after they visit our amazingly beautiful green (and painted) hills, forests and meadows.

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1 Comment

  1. Leah says:

    Interesting story. We need more initiatives like this. Take a look at this video featuring Masdar City’s upcoming Personal Rapid Transit system. These electric cars are guided by magnets in the concrete, pretty cool!

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