This past June, Xanterra Parks & Resorts completed one of the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems in the United States. Covering five acres of Southern California’s Death Valley National Park—a 3.3 million-acre park that is the sunniest place in the country—the one megawatt (MW) system will generate more than one-third of the total annual electricity needs of Xanterra’s operations in Death Valley, including the historic Furnace Creek Inn, Furnace Creek Ranch, Furnace Creek Golf Course, employee offices and housing. Xanterra’s facility is one of the largest privately owned PV energy systems in the country and easily the largest in the U.S. tourism industry. Xanterra fully owns the system and the energy it produces.
I will be visiting Death Valley National Park this weekend and will have a chance to see the solar installation up close. Be sure to visit Green Lodging News for coverage. Large solar installations, because of their cost, are still quite rare, but increasing numbers of lodging projects are including PV energy systems to meet a portion of the property's power needs. Depending on the state or province where one is located, the payback on an installation can be relatively short because of rebates and tax incentives. Andrew N. Todd, president and CEO of Denver-based Xanterra, says with the savings on energy costs, his company expects to break even on the project in just a few years.
Over the next 30 years, Xanterra's massive system—larger than five football fields—will eliminate the emission of more than 29,000 tons of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide—primary contributors to global warming, acid rain and smog. This reduction of pollution is equal to removing more than 5,100 cars from California’s highways.