Hearst Castle State Park is going green, adding solar panels and electric car-charging stations at the Visitor Center.
Facility Manager Tom Kidder says a contractor will install a 607 kw solar shade structure in the Visitor Center parking lot, breaking ground as soon as this coming February.
“It will provide 100 percent of the power needs of the Visitor Center, Office and Maintenance Yard, as well as the park’s beach facilities.”
Once the project breaks ground, it is expected to be operational within a few months. The state still needs a permit from the Coastal Commission.
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Like many other such facilities, the solar units, 1,812 of them, will be installed on top of shaded parking canopies that will help cool cars during the hot months as well as save the park money.
“We are getting a zero-cost system” Kidder said, “under a power purchase contract with a company called Ecoplexus who will deliver the power at an annual cost of 11 cents a kwh.”
Kidder noted that the deal will save the state about $1 million over the life of the contract. The park is paying PG&E 15 to 20 cents per kwh now.
Meanwhile, Hearst Castle has just installed 14 electric car charging units in the parking lot — half Tesla and half standard.
Asked way the state did not apply to supply power to the Castle itself, Kidder says the net-metering rule requires all properties that are electrified to be contiguous. The visitor complex and castle on top of the hill are miles apart, with private Hearst land in between.
The contract also calls for removal of up to 70 drought-impacted non-native cypress trees in various states of declining health from the central section of the parking area. They would be replaced with low-growing drought-tolerant native shrubs.
The park will also plant 90 Monterey cypress, 48 coast live oak and 50 arroyo willow trees around the parking lot perimeter to enhance the visual screening on Highway 1 and Hearst Ranch. To reduce light pollution, the park will install low-level lighting on the parking canopies and remove the existing taller, brighter lights.