When conjuring up an image of a Texas landscape, many people envision tumbleweeds rolling past a cowboy on horseback roaming through a vast desert. That imagery may apply to part of the massive state, but a vision of beautiful parks powered by solar energy is just as accurate. At Modernize, we like to tip our hats to energy-efficient places that benefit the community, and there are several Texas parks that do exactly that.
Lone Star State Parks
After the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) received grants, they installed solar panels to take care of roughly 5% – 20% of the energy needed to power park buildings and parking lot lighting. Any unused generated power is put back into the grid. It’s estimated that these panels save TPWD over $75,000 a year, and the combined power would keep 70 homes up and running for a year.
Some Texas parks have upped their solar power abilities more than others. For example, Enchanted Rock, located in Fredericksburg, generates 50% of their headquarter’s energy from solar panels after receiving financial help from Green Mountain Energy Sun Club. The panels sit on the roof of the main building, which encourages visitors to educate themselves about solar power and, of course, learn about the beautiful pink granite dome of Enchanted Rock.
Also in the Austin-area is the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Headquarters. This building can produce 92 kilowatts of power, the largest amount of Park Department buildings in the state. Meanwhile, in Athens, the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, which educates visitors about fishing and local wildlife and even houses a fish hatchery, pulls in 80 kilowatts.
Every kilowatt counts, and many of the top 18 solar powered Texas parks bring in 20 kilowatts of power. Houston’s Sheldon Observation Tower in Sheldon Lake State Park uses its environmentally friendly energy to run an elevator up to the top of the 75-foot tall tower. About 25 visitors at a time can get a bird’s eye view of the protected wetlands and prairie from the two observation decks. Solar powered lights brighten up the tower’s stairs as well.
Park visitors are already in an environmentally conscious mindset, so the education and appreciation for solar power are primed when checking out a Texas park. With over 25,000 panels statewide, large parks like McKinney Falls State Park in Austin and Lake Arrowhead State Park in Wichita Falls will continue to pull in their power from the big Texas sun. This will make the dark-blue gridded appearance of solar panels part of Texas’s landscape for the foreseeable future.