In a victory for the environment, Everglades National Park gets solar power

The Shark Valley Visitor Center will soon get solar panels, thanks to Florida Power & Light and the National Park Service.

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click to enlarge Everglades National Park's Shark Valley Visitor Center is about to move to solar for 40% of its energy. - goodfreephotos.com/CC0
goodfreephotos.com/CC0
Everglades National Park's Shark Valley Visitor Center is about to move to solar for 40% of its energy.

Everglades National Park is going solar.

Not all of it, mind you, but the most unique ecosystem on the planet is definitely reducing its carbon footprint. The Shark Valley Visitor Center will reduce its dependence on fossil fuels by 40% when it installs donated solar panels, courtesy of Florida Power & Light, the South Florida power company owned by NextEra Energy, that bills itself as having a "clean energy" company.

The panels, coupled with a $25,000 donation from FPL and a National Park Service matching grant, means the Shark Valley Visitor Center will get a 12-kilowatt solar system.

“When you’re surrounded by an oasis of green space like the Everglades, opportunities abound to tell engaging stories about how nature powers this amazing ecosystem. Adding solar power to the mix is a perfect fit,” said South Florida National Parks Trust Chairman Wayne Rassner. SFNPT, Executive Director Don Finefrock explained to CL, is the park's fundraising partner.

The visitor center, on the western edge of Miami-Dade County, services visitors interested in learning more about the tenuous collection of ecosystems that stretch from near SeaWorld down through Florida Keys. People looking to rent bikes or take a tram tour through this part of the Everglades also visit Shark Valley.

Like the Shark Valley Visitor Center, these baby gators in the Everglades use the sun for power. - Cathy Salustri
Cathy Salustri
Like the Shark Valley Visitor Center, these baby gators in the Everglades use the sun for power.

A press release from the South Florida National Parks Trust likened solar energy to how alligators stay warm, and we loved it so much, we're just gonna quote it here:

"It’s an intriguing fact of nature that alligators, the ubiquitous denizens of the Everglades, are solar powered, with scaly skin that optimizes the sun’s rays to maintain energy," the release starts, then goes on to explain: "Similar to solar panels, alligator skin absorbs heat from the sun. It is composed of bumpy scales made from keratin, which is the same protein found in hooves and horns, making it extremely tough. Heat is slowly radiated back into alligators’ bodies after the sun has gone, which allows these creatures to maintain a higher rate of energy over time and remain active far after other reptiles have lost their ability to regulate their body temperatures.

SFNPT has raised more than $7 million for national parks and FPL operates 14 solar plants and is currently installing one million solar panels in Maimai-Dade. FPL also has a solar research institute at Florida International University.


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About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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