Butter Pot Park in Newfoundland (Canada) has undergone a successful transformation from diesel to solar power, showcasing resilience amidst the park’s notorious bouts of rain, fog, and drizzle.
Andrea Pretty, the park manager, championed the change, dispelling skepticism about solar power’s viability in this notoriously wet region of Canada.
Despite challenging weather conditions throughout the spring and early summer, the park’s new solar power system passed the test.
“The weather we have had on the Avalon Peninsula this spring and early summer has been harsh, and one of our locations ran on solar power in those weather conditions without requiring a minute of backup,” she expressed with pride.
Historically, seven key structures within the park, including the checkpoint and several comfort stations, relied on diesel power.
Just last August, the park’s diesel expenditure neared a significant CA$7,000. This inefficient and environmentally detrimental power source has now been replaced by a network of solar panels, which charge batteries to provide the necessary energy.
A propane-powered backup system has also been installed. Still, Pretty anticipates its use will be minimal given the surprising efficacy of the solar panels, even on the most overcast of days.
Butter Pot Park’s transition is part of a broader shift toward renewable energy across Newfoundland’s provincial parks, with Barachois Pond and Sir Richard Squires Memorial also making the switch to solar power last season.
This transition is a promising stride for the province, especially given that the remainder of its 13 parks still relies on grid electricity.
The benefits of this switch extend beyond mere cost-saving. The three parks combined were previously burning an estimated 53,000 liters of diesel annually, a habit costing around CA$93,000 and contributing significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Now, visitors can enjoy the newfound tranquillity of a park no longer dominated by the noise and smell of diesel generators.
“Before the switch we wouldn’t be able to stand here having a conversation. It was very difficult to hear. You couldn’t hear the birds because the diesel generator prevented you from hearing anything other than it,” Pretty said.
“Now it’s peaceful and quiet. It’s what you would expect to see here in a provincial park.”
Long-term park-goer Adam Cardoulis lauded the switch to solar power. He fondly remembers what it was like when the park was powered with diesel generators: “It was loud. You could always hear them in the background no matter how far you were from the comfort stations. You could smell them and whenever there was a problem with the generators they would emit a lot of thick black smoke, and who wants that when they’re camping?
While personal generators are still permitted at the park’s 175 campsites, they are becoming less common as more people adopt portable solar power systems for their own use.
The provincial government states that the motivation behind the switch to solar power extends beyond reducing costs and noise pollution. The significant concern about climate change and the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels was a primary driver for this change.
The conversion of Butter Pot and the two other parks to solar photovoltaic power was funded by approximately CA$750,000 of provincial funds. A substantial portion of this came from the Climate Change Challenge Fund through the Department of Environment and Climate Change, with further support from the provincial Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Bernard Davis, championed the transition, highlighting its importance not only for the park’s financial savings but also for the province’s broader environmental goals.
“I think that any time that we have the ability to change over from the reliance on fossil fuels it’s a good thing for the people of the province,” said Environment and Climate Change Minister Bernard Davis.
“It’s great for cost savings for the park, but what is also important to us is that it reduces greenhouse gas emissions.”
The success story of Butter Pot Park’s transition to solar power stands as a testament to the possibilities of renewable energy, even in regions known for less-than-ideal weather conditions for solar power. This transition is a promising example for other parks and regions contemplating a switch to cleaner, quieter, and more efficient energy sources.
Featured image from Butter Pot Park.