Magazine article E Magazine

Treading More Lightly: Capturing the Sun in the Mojave Desert

Magazine article E Magazine

Treading More Lightly: Capturing the Sun in the Mojave Desert

Article excerpt

As I walk into a clearing between hundred-foot-tall palm trees, I see a towering array of photovoltaic panels tilted en masse toward the sun. Park management company Xanterra has installed this impressive solar phalanx, smack-dab in the middle of its private "inholding" at Furnace Creek within southeastern California's Death Valley National Park. This stretch of the Mojave Desert is a prime spot for solar panels. And Xanterra, which runs the Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort here, has begun to capitalize on the location's abundant flee energy. Death Valley is one of the sunniest spots on Earth, clocking some 360 days of sunshine a year.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Xanterra's one megawatt solar installation at Furnace Creek--the largest solar facility in the tourism industry--is spread across a four-acre rectangle. According to Joel Southall, Xanterra's director of Environmental Health & Safety at Furnace Creek, the clean power created by the 5,740 solar panels over the next three decades will eliminate upwards of 29,000 tons of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide--equivalent to taking 5,100 cars off the road.

"When this facility went online last June, greenhouse gas emissions company-wide immediately decreased by 4%," says Southall.

Furnace Creek Inn is surrounded by 3.4 million acres of pristine desert wilderness: The resort is literally an oasis for nature lovers. And while the striated cliffs of Zabriskie Point, the briny reflection pools of Badwater and the ever-shifting sand dunes of Mesquite Flats beckon, I sit on the patio and have another organic lemonade before venturing out into the hot and sandy wilds just beyond the gate. …

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