One Tucson-area campground is trying to turn one of their biggest obstacles to attracting visitors into fuel for family fun this summer. This June, a Kampground of America location in Tucson broke ground on new 28-foot solar structures that will provide both shade for campers and help power facilities. In addition, the campground will provide solar power to guests with large RVs parked at the site, while excess electricity will be diverted back into the Tucson power grid.
PowerParasol is a Chandler solar power company that previously installed large solar panel installations for Arizona State University’s parking structures. Bob Boscamp, president of PowerParasol’s parent company, says the Arizona sun and heat keep many visitors away from the campground during the summer, and that his company was hired to provide a creative solution.
In 2011, more than 42 million Americans spent a total of 534.9 million days camping, for an average of 12.6 days each. In Arizona, U.S. Forest Service officials recently announced good news for the small businesses that rely on that traffic to popular family campsites and camping resorts.
After the destructive Slide Forest Fire in 2014, some Arizona parks and campgrounds were closed. Fortunately, officials said there would be no need for further campground closures in Oak Creek Canyon this summer season. Already, local small businesses report an increase of 5-7% in camping visitors for 2015.
“It has been a dramatic reduction in risk compared to last year,” said Forest Ranger Nicole Branton. “Looking at that analysis, the threshold for needing closures is not there.”
Even so, the famous Arizona heat keeps away visitors from many campsites. At the Tucson KOA, PowerParasol officials believe the new solar structures may help solve that problem.
Boscamp hopes the new solar structure will both attract more visitors and provide clean energy for guests looking for air-conditioned family vacations. Plus, PowerParasol estimates that energy savings from the solar panels will offset 60% of the construction costs. In total, the solar system is expected to produce 1.75 million kilowatt hours of energy.