Home Energy Management Tourism Industry’s Largest Solar PV System Will Soon Turn Five

Tourism Industry’s Largest Solar PV System Will Soon Turn Five


DEATH VALLEY, CALIF.—Approaching its five-year anniversary, the solar photovoltaic system national park and resort concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts installed in Death Valley has produced more than 10 million kW and met the company’s goal of reducing purchased electricity by 30 percent.

The one megawatt (MW) system was completed in June 2008 and covers five acres within Furnace Creek Resort which includes the historic Inn at Furnace Creek, Ranch at Furnace Creek and Furnace Creek Golf Course as well as employee offices and housing.

“Our solar PV system has been a true workhorse as it harnesses the sun’s energy practically every day of the year,” said Karin Swarbrick, director of sustainability for Furnace Creek Resort. “While the energy it produces is impressive, what is equally important is what is not being produced.”

Since the system went online, it has prevented the production of 665,000 tons of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions which is the equivalent of the amount of emissions created by driving 690,000 miles. In order to counteract that amount of emissions, close to 8,000 trees would need to be planted.

One of Largest Privately Owned Systems in United States

Xanterra’s facility is one of the largest privately owned PV energy systems in the country and the largest in the U.S. tourism industry. Xanterra fully owns the system and the energy it produces.

The system tracks the sun throughout the day and was specially designed to withstand the harsh conditions of Death Valley. It produces enough energy to power more than 400 average-sized American homes for decades. During the day the system is reducing electricity usage of the entire property by up to 60 percent. The electricity feeds directly into the electric grid instead of batteries.

The elaborate system is situated in a secluded area surrounded by the Furnace Creek Golf Course. The company took steps to ensure that construction of the solar PV system was as environmentally sound as possible.

Xanterra relocated more than 144 date palm trees to make room for the system of 5,740 solar panels. Although the trees are not indigenous to Death Valley—they were planted by the Pacific Coast Borax Co. in the 1920s—Xanterra was committed to preserving as many trees as possible because of their historical significance and because the trees serve as habitat for area wildlife.

Vegetative debris was mulched and used around the perimeter of the site for dust control, and date palms that could not be relocated were reused for landscaping.

Xanterra contracted with SPG Solar Inc. of Novato, Calif. for the installation. SPG Solar has installed more than 500 commercial and residential PV systems tied to electric grids.

Go to Xanterra.