Yellowstone continues to raise the bar in its use of renewable energy sources. The park is working to completely power an important facility with a combination of sunlight, a natural spring, and used car batteries. Sound futuristic? It’s not.
The Lamar Buffalo Ranch was established in 1907 to preserve Yellowstone’s bison after they had been hunted to near extinction. Located in the remote northeast corner of the park, this small ranch sits on the north side of Lamar Valley. Both historic and new log cabins accompany what are now horse corrals, and bison roam freely through the park.
Ten miles from the nearest electric service, the ranch has always been, by necessity, off the grid. However, today it requires a reliable, year-round source of power.
During the summer and winter, the ranch serves as a field campus for the Yellowstone Forever Institute, and in the spring and fall it is home to the Yellowstone National Park Service youth education program, Expedition Yellowstone. Lamar River District Rangers reside here year round, and the corrals and historic barn are the center for the area’s backcountry operation.
Sustainability Project: Thinking Big
Yellowstone National Park has committed to a three-phase sustainability project at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch. It focuses on renewable energy production and energy conservation upgrades for historic structures at the ranch.
The project will eventually include real-time monitoring for energy management and education, and the ultimate goal is to achieve zero fossil fuel use for daily operations. In the future, the ranch will not only serve as an educational facility, but also a model of environmental stewardship for parks and people everywhere.
Phase 1: Water, Sunshine, and…Car Batteries?
Micro-hydro systems work by using a clean and readily available energy source: water. The existing domestic water pipe will soon be used to channel water from a nearby natural spring through a new 4.5 kW turbine before returning it to the stream. The turbine, set to be installed by end of July 2017, will use the force of the water’s downhill momentum to generate energy without consuming or polluting it.
Water power was actually the original electricity source at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch, with a small turbine located under the bunkhouse.
But here’s the new twist: by using the micro-hydro turbine and solar panels to harness the power of water and sunshine, this process now recharges electricity stored within 208 refurbished Toyota Camry Hybrid batteries. The batteries are expected to have enough storage capacity for the campus electric supply to be fossil-fuel free.
Working in conjunction with the new turbine and upgraded solar panels, the batteries will allow heat and hot water previously generated by propane to be provided by electricity.
Just as the Lamar Buffalo Ranch was granted a new purpose hosting students instead of bison, the car batteries now have a second useful life bringing light and heat to those students.
In addition to Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., other generous corporate partners working on this project include Andersen Windows, Inc., Sharp Manufacturing Company of America, Indy Power Systems, Patriot Solar Group, and Kohler Co.
The Lamar Buffalo Ranch Sustainability Project is part of Yellowstone Forever’s commitment to help Yellowstone reduce its greenhouse gas emission while preserving the integrity of its historic structures and natural ecosystems. For Phases II and III, Yellowstone Forever is working to raise funds for renovation of the ranch’s most essential and energy-inefficient structures. Learn more about the Greenest Park Initiative.