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Hearst Castle Visitor Center to be powered by solar

November 7,2017

Hearst Castle State Park is going green when it comes to generating its electricity and offering electric charging stations to visitors.

Facility Manager Tom Kidder says a contractor will install a 607kw solar shade structure in the Visitor Center parking lot, breaking ground as soon as this coming February.

“It will provide 100% of the power needs of the Visitor Center, Office and Maintenance Yard, as was the park’s beach facilities.”

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 2.51.02 PMOnce it breaks ground it is expected to be operational within a few months. The state still needs a permit from the Coastal Commission.

Like many other such facilities, the solar units, 1812 of them, will be installed on top of shaded parking canopies that will help cool cars during the hot months as well as saving the park money.

“We are getting a zero cost system” says Kidder, “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 notes that the deal will save the state about 1 million dollars over the life of the contract. The park is paying PG&E 15-20 cents per kwh now.

As far as electric cars ,Hearst Castle has just installed 14 units in the parking lot, half Tesla and half standard charging units.

Asked way the state did not apply to supply power to the famous 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 and replace them with low growing drought tolerant native shrubs; They 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; and Install low level lighting on the parking canopies and remove the existing taller, brighter lights to reduce light pollution.

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