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New Solar Energy System Powers Scenic Area Visitor Center on California’s Inyo National Forest

The Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitors Center is a large public building that is used by more than 140,000 visitors a year. With steeply rising utility costs over the last decade limited funding for operational costs were suggesting shorter operating hours and reduced seasonal openings to save money. To avoid limiting public services, the Forest Service began to explore alternative solutions.

A new photovoltaic system for the Mono Basin Visitor Center on the Inyo National Forest will save taxpayers an estimated $20-25,000 in energy costs. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service photo

A new photovoltaic system for the Mono Basin Visitor Center on the Inyo National Forest will save taxpayers an estimated $20-25,000 in energy costs. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service photo

Situated in a climate where the sun shines an average of 289 days of the year, installation of a photovoltaic power system for the visitor center offered a logical opportunity to cut energy costs and reduce the agency’s carbon footprint.  In 2010, Forest Service Recovery Act funding offered the opportunity for the investment for the energy and money saving technology.

As the first congressionally designated National Forest Scenic Area, the Forest Service determined that it was critical to design the system in a way that met the building’s energy needs while preserving scenic integrity. An innovative design was developed and the system was successfully installed in the summer of 2011.

Final agreements on power distribution and generation were made with the local utility company, Southern California Edison, in early 2012 and the system is now supplying the visitor center with an estimated 46 percent of its annual electricity needs.

In addition to seeing a reduction in monthly utility costs, the Forest Service will also receive a rebate through the California Solar Initiative program.  The Forest expects to use the rebate funds to offset the cost of further energy-efficient upgrades for forest facilities.

4 Responses to “New Solar Energy System Powers Scenic Area Visitor Center on California’s Inyo National Forest”

  1. Elizabeth Martin says:

    I would like to get more information about how this particular system works. The roof appears to have neither solar shingles nor panels. What company or companies provide(s) the system, and at what kind of cost per kw of electricity? Would it be suitable for home construction or only for commercial use? How can I learn more about it?
    Thank you!

  2. Michael says:

    Great article – thanks for posting.

  3. Barbara Hatcher says:

    This is great news! We need more projects like this. There is so much potential to utilize renewable energy in our country. Just look at Germany. Germany has nearly half the world’s installed solar cell capacity and they even don’t have so much sunny days in a year!

    @Elizabeth Martin
    “The roof appears to have neither solar shingles nor panels”

    Yes, it seems like the roof itself is made of solar panels. Interesting design.

  4. Barbara Hatcher says:

    I still can’t find company that made those panels. I am trying to find it, but no luck so far. Anyone else have some information about that?

    Thank you!

    Barbara from http://www.solarpowercentre.com

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