WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The National Park Service is preparing to open a new and extremely energy efficient visitor facility in Southern California. The Recovery funded Anthony C. Beilenson Visitor Center, a so-called “net zero” facility because it produces its own energy to operate, is slated for opening ceremonies in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
The visitor center joins a net-zero transit facility, also funded with Recovery money, that recently opened in Massachusetts. According to local officials, the John W. Olver Transit Center, which serves rail and bus passengers in Greenfield in the northwestern corner of the state, is the first net-zero transit center in the country.
All of the Beilenson Visitor Center’s energy needs are powered by a 94 kW photovoltaic solar energy system on site. The U.S. Department of the Interior provided $9.5 million in Recovery funding to pay for construction of the visitor center and its solar energy system.
Similarly, the Olver Transit Center is powered by 7,300 sq. ft. of photovoltaic panels. Other energy-efficient features include geothermal wells providing heated water and occupancy sensors that adjust lighting and temperature based on how many people are present. The U.S. Department of Transportation provided $12.8 million in Recovery funds to underwrite construction.
Net-zero technologies have been an official priority of the U.S. Department of Energy since 2008, when it launched an initiative promoting development of net-zero commercial buildings. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allowed DOE to step up the initiative. For instance, DOE awarded $5 million in Recovery funds to the city of Oak Ridge, Tenn., to develop more net-zero technologies that could be used in retrofiting existing buildings and be integrated into new buildings.
DOE also awarded $15.9 million of Recovery funding to the University of California, Berkeley to develop testing facilities for commercial net-zero energy systems. Researchers will be able to conduct measurements of energy use and environmental conditions to understand how the systems perform, and then redesign and optimize their capabilities and performance.