The ranger station built in 1907 is now solar-poweredI remember years ago when hybrid cars were starting to be a thing, I was constantly asked what would happen to the batteries. Most uninformed people seemed to think that this was a big problem, but in fact, compared to burning fossil fuels, batteries are fairly easy to deal with; unlike gasoline, they are not destroyed by use and then put into the atmosphere where it's very hard to get them back. They stay right where they are, inside a protective box, and when the time comes, they can be recycled. But the thing is, even after a long time inside a hybrid vehicle, these batteries can still hold a charge quite well - some taxis have put hundreds of thousands of miles on hybrids without problem - so rather than directly recycle the batteries, sometimes the best use for them is to move them to a different system where it doesn't matter too much if they can only hold 80% of their original charge.
Update: The first version of this article said the park was Yosemite rather than Yellowstone. Apologies, I had Yosemite on the brain for some reason. Could it be slight dyslexia because both park names start with 'Y'? In any case, sorry.
This is what happened at the Yellowstone National Park Lamar Buffalo field campus (pictured above). The ranger station and education center, built in 1907, now has an 40kWh solar array (see below) and 208 old Camry hybrid batteries that provide 85kWh of energy storage (the battery packs are internally re-wired in parallel and arranged in series in four arrays of 52, with each array providing a nominal 375 volts) to ensure continuous power at night or on cloudy days. This system produces enough power for the 5 buildings of the campus, and help keep Yellowstone as clean as possible.
Toyota writes: "Hybrid batteries typically reach the end of their usable life in automobile-grade applications with significant remaining power storage capacity. While Toyota has a robust hybrid battery recycling program in place, the Yellowstone project reflects ongoing efforts to extend the life of existing hybrid batteries. Engineers expect this type of use to double the overall lifespan of the hybrid batteries."
Update: The ranger station is not in Yosemite, but that doesn't take away the beauty of it, so I'm leaving the videos below. Enjoy!
Clearly Yosemite National Park is a beautiful place, very special. It's the kind of place where a solar array and batteries are infinitely better than running fossil fuel-powered generators.
For more on the beauty of Yosemite, check out the videos here: This is what you could see if you backpacked 200 miles in Yosemite National Park.