Sun Power: How strong is the sun in Death Valley National Park? Answer: At least strong enough to energize four acres of photo-voltaic solar panels to the tune of one megawatt. This may not sound like much, but the Furnace Creek Inn-Ranch area gets 30 percent of its electric power via these silent un-polluters.
Over 30 years, the system will eliminate more than 284,000 tons of pollutants that contribute to global warming, acid rain, and smog, according to Xanterra management, which operates the two resorts. Solar power is fed directly into the regional grid, not to batteries.
Eyebrows were raised when Sue and I announced at the coffee shop that we were heading for this 3.3-million-acre rock pile.
By Sue De Lapa
To them, even if it’s the largest American national park outside Alaska, it’s an ugly place where you could die in the 115-degree summer heat. Actually, tourists flock here for the magnificent display of spring wildflowers, known throughout the world; to hike the badlands and bizarre rock formations; and to play golf in reputedly the world’s lowest (214 feet below sea level) golf course.
Foreign tourists, forever fascinated by tales of the Old West, have long braved the summer heat. After the September 11, 2001, attack, foreign travel dropped off, but now they’re back.
By Sue De Lapa
Furnace Creek Inn
Then there are the golfers, a distinct cultural group who can be found clustered around the 19th Hole beer-and-burgers joint next to the pro shop. From its raised counter, Sue and I gazed down the level green fairway—did you think it would be sand?—at the graceful date palms. (The Ranch was once a date plantation. They’re no longer harvested; coyotes gobble them when they fall.) The solar array is just beyond the course to the left.