Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the completion of a solar energy project at Cades Cove that will annually reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 23 tons and reduce fuel costs by $14,000. Formerly, the park used a diesel-fuel generator for power at the site which often caused noise disruptions to park programs and the visitor experience to the historic landscape.
“This is a great step in making our park operations more environmentally friendly,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The solar panels will provide a great, natural source of energy for the Cable Mill Area that enables us to provide a better visitor experience and to be better stewards of the park.”
The newly installed solar array includes 80 panels that provide a silent energy source to serve the small visitor center, bookstore, and restroom facility in the Cable Mill area. The panels are located behind the restroom in an area that receives maximum exposure from both morning and afternoon sun. A low berm planted with native vegetation was created around the array to minimize the visual intrusion on the historic landscape and the area’s natural beauty.
Cades Cove receives approximately 2 million visitors per year. Many of these visitors stop at the Cable Mill area to visit the exhibit of historic structures assembled there. Given its remote location at the west end of Cades Cove, the Cable Mill area is off the commercial power grid and all power must be generated on site.
The Southeast Region of the National Park Service provided the funding for this project. The work was completed by Solar Power Integrators, a veteran-owned company. For more information on sustainable projects across the National Park Service, please visit https://www.nps.gov/subjects/sustainability/be-energy-smart.htm.