May 7, 2009
Yellowstone Will Install a Micro Hydro System to Harness Green Energy
Yellowstone National Park will receive $1.65 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to install a micro hydro system that will harness power from the Park’s drinking water supply.
This is part of a $750 million investment in nearly 800 projects throughout the National Park Service, which was announced last month. The money will be used to fund projects that address critical park needs, generate regional jobs, improve experiences for park visitors, and implement sustainable green technologies.
The idea behind the micro hydro system is to decrease Yellowstone's impact on the environment by using a clean and readily available energy source: falling water. While innovative for a national park, it is actually the revival of an old idea.
Nearly a century ago when the U.S. Army was still present in Yellowstone, a Pelton water wheel (see photo) was installed to generate electricity for Mammoth Hot Springs. While that original unit was taken out of service long ago, the Park plans to use the $1.65 million in federal funds to install a new micro hydro system. It will generate energy from the existing water delivery system. This non-consumptive use of the piped water will result in the production of energy with zero emissions.
Using this clean power source will restore a tradition of renewable electricity generation in Mammoth. It will supply an estimated 900,000 kilowatt hours of renewable energy each year, reduce the Park’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by 695 tons, and save approximately $80,000 per year in electric bills.
The micro hydro system was identified as a priority project in an Environmental Action Plan for Yellowstone, created in 2007 by Ecos Consulting and funded by the Yellowstone Park Foundation. The goal of the plan was to expand the Park's role as a leader in environmental stewardship by identifying specific strategies for resource conservation, use of alternative energy, and reduction of greenhouse gasses. More than twenty of the projects recommended in the plan were adopted as part of the Yellowstone Environmental Stewardship (YES!) Initiative.
While the Foundation was poised to raise private support for this project, the federal funding will help the Park achieve the goal of reducing its dependency on purchased electricity, thus allowing the Foundation to focus on other energy projects that are part of the YES! Initiative.
In total, Yellowstone will receive $14,735,000 in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In addition to the micro hydro project, several other projects were awarded funding, including four trail projects that will complement the Yellowstone Park Foundation’s Trails Fund Initiative.
The largest of the Yellowstone projects announced is construction of a new, $9 million wastewater treatment plant at Madison Junction. It will replace an aging, 50-year-old plant that struggles to handle summer wastewater flows and was never designed to operate during winter months.
All the ARRA projects funded in Yellowstone are long-standing priorities of the Park and meet the criteria put forth in the Recovery Act: namely, that a project addresses the highest-priority needs; generates the largest number of jobs in the shortest period of time; and creates lasting value for the American public.