Alternative Energy in Concessions

In today’s society, a trend is starting: parks and other businesses are looking for ways to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, and supply energy in a sustainable manner. It is estimated that by 2050 one-third of the world’s energy will need to come from solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable resources.i Alternative energy refers to energy sources that have fewer undesired consequences than fossil fuel sources, namely lower carbon emissions. In addition to renewable alternative energy sources, many parks are also using alternative fuels. Examples of alternative fuels include:

  • Natural Gas: in either compressed or liquefied form, natural gas is clean burning, and produces significantly fewer harmful emissions than gasoline;
  • Ethanol: an alcohol-based fuel produced by fermenting and distilling corn, barley, wheat, wood or grass;
  • Methanol: a product of fermenting and distilling wood into alcohol, methanol can be combined with gasoline or used to provide hydrogen to power fuel-cell vehicles;
  • Electricity: fuels vehicles through rechargeable batteries, or through fuel cells;
  • Biodiesel: renewable, and non-toxic, biodiesel is made from recycled vegetable oils or greases.ii

Various concessioners across the NPS have implemented alternative energy projects to increase their resiliency against climate change impacts, and decrease their dependence on fossil fuels. Alternative fuels are often used in park buses and trams, snowmobiles, shuttles, trucks, boats, and staff vehicles.

  • American Alpine Institute, Ltd. (AAI) at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska is currently purchasing green power, known as “green tags,” through a local energy company to offset 100% of the operation’s energy consumption. AAI was one of the first companies to jump on board the EPA Green Power Partnership, which works with various organizations, universities, and government groups to reduce environmental impacts from electricity use. In 2008, the concessioner was listed on the EPA 100% Purchaser’s List.
  • Zion National Park has multiple sustainability orders in place, including the use of solar power. Xanterra is using used vegetable oil from the kitchens to fuel its fleet of vehicles, as well as using biodiesel in the warehouse boiler room, solar panels at the High Sierra camp bathrooms, and wind power. Xanterra has also made strides at Crater Lake National Park by purchasing electricity generated by renewable sources including wind, solar and biomass. Xanterra uses wind power in seven different national parks. Xanterra’s Annie Creek Restaurant at Crater Lake and the marina services building at Cottonwood Cove Marina at Lake Mead have both received the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification. . At Lake Mead the LEED building is particularly interesting, as it is the first LEED certified floating building.
  • Grand Canyon Railway, Inc. has reduced its carbon emissions by 26,856 pounds per round trip to Grand Canyon National Park in a steam locomotive by eliminating the use of diesel fuel and substituting waste vegetable oil. The 90-year old locomotive garnered the Grand Canyon Railway ISO 14001 third-party certification.
  • The Aviator Development Company, LLC, at Gateway National Recreation Area, installed a tri-generation (power, heating and cooling) PureComfort system that utilizes microturbines. The system uses natural gas fueled microturbines that yield 65 kilowatts of electric power.
  • The Everglades Shark Valley tram tours are also functioning using more sustainable methods. The Everglades National Park concessioner offers two hour, naturalist led tours through the northern region of the park, in a tram fueled by biodiesel.

If you would like to share your concessions alternative energy project, please email the Greenline Update at