Isle Royale receives $1.8M donation

ISLE ROYALE NATIONAL PARK – Isle Royale National Park has received a $1.8 million donation from the Board of National Parks Concession, Inc. to install a photovoltaic system at Rock Harbor.

The system, which converts sunlight into electricity, will hopefully be installed next summer.

“We have some really small systems on some remote cabins, but they’re very small compared to what we’re talking about,” said Elizabeth Rossini, assistant superintendent at Isle Royale National Park. “So this is really the first major photovoltaic system on the island.”

Rock Harbor, located on the northeast end of Isle Royale, has 60 lodge rooms, 20 house cottages and slips for up to 12 boats. The park now relies on gasoline and diesel for fuel, generating electricity and pumping water.

“We can’t completely get off of diesel, but it is going to reduce our consumption significantly – probably 75 percent,” Rossini said.

The park is conducting a series of smaller energy efficiency measures this summer, including changing out light bulbs and buying more efficient appliances.

Through a Department of Energy program, the park is combining donations and payments over time to finance alternative energy programs. It will cost an estimated $7 million to convert the three developed sites at Isle Royale – Rock Harbor, Windigo and Mott Island – to photovoltaic systems. Between the $2.246 million NPCI has donated and more than $1 million kicked in by the park, it is about halfway to meeting its goal.

While the completion date will depend upon when the park raises the money, the park hopes to have all the systems in place by the fall of 2015.

The NPCI board manages a trust formed with assets from the 2002 sale of NPCI, a nonprofit concessonaire that had been operating since the 1930s. The charter allows the funds to be used at several national parks, including Isle Royale.

“It’s exciting to see a huge project like this be able to move forward,” Rossini said. “We’re really appreciative of NPCI recognizing that this is a valuable project and directing the money our way. It’s great. We feel like it’s the right thing to do for so many reasons, and the NPS should be a leader in sustainable practices. Now we can get closer to being a leader in that.”