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Interior and Energy Team Up to Make National Parks more Green

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding that will help the National Park Service (NPS) showcase sustainable energy practices and fulfill its mission of environmental stewardship. With equal amounts of initial “seed money” from DOI and DOE totaling $1 million for 2009, the Energy SmartPARKS program hopes to eventually draw private sector support to spark a green energy future in the United States.

“This partnership will deploy energy efficient and renewable energy technologies throughout the national park system,” said Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne. “We have the power to not only improve conditions in the parks, but also demonstrate for the public the impacts and benefits of green energy innovations.”

“Our national parks are a showcase of this country’s natural beauty and historical significance. With this agreement, we’re ensuring that these parks are also models of energy efficiency and clean energy technologies,” said Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman. “Our parks have always been an important way for Americans to learn about the environment, now they can learn about energy use as well.”

“The Energy SmartPARKS program will make positive, tangible advancements by greening the parks and by reducing energy costs and carbon emissions,” said Mary A. Bomar, Director of the National Park Service. “This is a great way to demonstrate our environmental leadership as we approach the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016.”

On the ground, parks will use funding from Energy SmartPARKS to deploy cutting-edge technology as well as traditional solutions, including projects that retrofit lighting systems; purchase electric utility vehicles; install solar panel systems; upgrade meters and thermostats; replace windows and furnaces; study the feasibility of wind power; and conduct energy audits. Lessons learned from these projects can be used in other national parks and in the homes of every American. A list of some of the 2009 projects is available.

Two recent projects illustrate the exciting possibilities of Energy SmartPARKS in the future: the exterior relighting of both the White House and the Washington Monument. With ground-breaking technology that improved the exterior illumination, these national icons now look beautiful while being energy efficient at the same time.

Although the official assessment of the White House relighting project by DOE has not yet been conducted, early estimates anticipate over 50% energy reduction. The Washington Monument relighting project resulted in a 27% energy reduction with a cut of 36 tons per year in carbon emissions according to the official DOE assessment.

The Energy SmartPARKS program will also develop new and expand existing partnerships with the private, non-profit, and academic sectors. These partners may help raise funds, identify projects, find technological solutions, and educate the public.

The National Park Service is developing an Energy SmartPARKS website, in partnership with DOI and DOE, to showcase its commitment to a green energy future in America. Visit www.nps.gov/energy in the coming weeks.

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