The new Cades Cove solar array powers the Cable Mill visitor center and more! Photo credit – NPS.
Smoky Mountains National Park Cades Cove Clean Energy. The new solar array in the Cable Mill area of Cades Cove is up and running!
The new green energy project will reduce greenhouse gases by 23 tons thus reducing fuel costs by $14,000 annually. Until now the park used a diesel-fuel generator for powering the site which was noisy and adversely affected the natural experience of park visitors and wildlife.
“This is a great step in making our park operations more environmentally friendly,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The solar panels will provide a great, natural source of energy for the Cable Mill Area that enables us to provide a better visitor experience and to be better stewards of the park.”
The newly solar array boasts 80 photovoltaic panels that provide a quiet, passive energy source to serve the small visitor center, bookstore, and restroom facility at the unofficial halfway point around the Cades Cove driving loop. The panels can be found behind the restroom in an open area that receives maximum exposure to both morning and afternoon sun. A berm was raised around the array and planted with native plants to minimize disturbing visitors view of the historic area.
Cades Cove is one of the most popular parts of the Smokies and averages around 2 million visitors per year. Many visitors stop at the Cable Mill area to tour the old mill, blacksmith shop, Cable house and other historic structures located there. Due to the isolated location at the west end of Cades Cove, the Cable Mill area is completely off the TVA power grid and it is necessary to generate all power on site.
The Southeast Region of the National Park Service provided the funding for this project. The work was completed by Solar Power Integrators, a veteran-owned company. The Smokies is also home to another solar array at the Sugarlands Visitors Center near Gatlinburg which has been helping to reduce greenhouse emissions for several years.