KEYSTONE, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Nine hundred and seventy-five solar panels make up the solar canopy on top of the parking structure at Mount Rushmore. You may have seen some of the construction going on if you visited during the winter, and now they're complete with plans to open up parking on that level soon.
After years of planning and months of construction, the solar panels at Mount Rushmore National Memorial are officially up and running.
"This is something that the national parks service has been looking for for quite a while. We had a new contract that came out a couple of years ago and part of that contract, part of the agreement, we wanted someone who could work with the park service in sustainability and greening the park," says Chief of Interpretation and Education Maureen McGee-Ballinger.
Crews finished installing the panels in January. Since then, they contribute to half the power for both the restaurant and gift shop.
"We're expecting to generate almost 500,000 kilowatt hours per year. So to put that in context I think that's about 35 average homes, the electricity consumption for a year," says Kevin Crosby, sustainability manager for Xanterra Travel Collection at Mount Rushmore.
Using solar power is expected to save about $40,000 a year, and with other changes such as using LED lights, hybrid vehicles, and new windows, Mount Rushmore received a climate friendly park certification, but there's more that can be done.
"You don't stop there, you keep going just like Xanterra Travel Collection is continuing to do sustainability work, continue to improve in that are, so is the National Park Service," says McGee-Ballinger.
Other changes already in place include the parking payment system and tire inflation station, but more changes to the visitor center and electric vehicle charging stations are planned.