Study Analyzes National Parks’ Energy Use




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Improving energy efficiency at national parks to conserve natural resources and save tax dollars is the goal of a project led by Rochester Institute of Technology professor James Winebrake.

Winebrake, professor and chair of RIT’s Science, Technology and Society/Public Policy Department in the College of Liberal Arts, recently won a $385,000 grant from the National Park Service to stimulate energy efficiency and renewable energy use at the 375 national parks. He and science, technology, and public policy graduate students will focus on three objectives:

  • Analyze renewable-energy opportunities at parks by matching them with available renewable energy resources, such as wind or solar power
  • Analyze a park’s utility bills to uncover cost-saving measures
  • Initiate energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in parks to reduce the National Park Service’s dependence on fossil fuels

Professor Winebrake’s project is particularly timely given the current Congressional debate over the renewal of the federal highways bill. The Transportation Equity Act (TEA-21) includes an alternative transportation in parks program supporting the development of trams and shuttle systems to reduce car traffic and fossil fuel use in the parks system. Funding provided in TEA-21 will enhance Dr. Winebrake’s energy conservation efforts and allow the National Parks Service to better implement his recommendations.

“Our nation’s parks are absolute gems,” Winebrake notes. “Yet, they contain old buildings and equipment that waste a lot of energy and, therefore, money. This work will uncover energy savings opportunities and help parks implement renewable energy projects that would otherwise be out of reach.”

In a related project, Winebrake, director of the University-National Park Energy Partnership Program, distributed $194,000 to seven universities to conduct energy audits at nearby national parks.