Solar Power National Forest

Tonto National Forest

These days, it seems you can’t swing a javelina around here without hitting something powered by the sun. (Please don’t try this experiment; javelinas aren’t fond of being swung.)

That’s not a complaint; far from it, in fact. It’s just a little bit…overwhelming. Case in point:

On Saturday I drove my 15-year-old son, Liam, to his first practice swim for the 2010 Alcatraz Challenge. Trying to get close to conditions similar to what the swimmer will encounter in San Fransisco Bay in April is impossible in Phoenix. We had to drive up into the mountains northeast of the city to Bartlett Lake in Tonto National Forest. The water temperature on Saturday was perfect: a brisk 53°F — just about what swimmers can expect at Alcatraz.

Liam had finished his hour-long swim (they do wear wetsuits, by the way, but it’s still cold) and we had just started back to Phoenix when we passed an array of thirty-six solar panels connected to a small shed. I don’t stop for single panels. I’d never get anywhere if I did. But these looked impressive and photogenic. So, I pulled over and took the picture linked from the map above.

Cholla Campground

It wasn’t until I got home and started looking for information on these panels that I stumbled across a solar gold mine. Cholla campground is on the shore of Lake Roosevelt, also in the Tonto National Forest and just twelve miles from Bartlett Lake. Now, lots of campgrounds have a few solar panels or a solar water heater for the shower.

Cholla Campground, solar-powered well pump

At Cholla campground, the only electricity comes from solar panels. The only hot water is heated by solar water heaters. But, it’s the size of the facility that makes it unique. With 206 campsites, Cholla is the largest fully solar-powered campground in the United States.

For now, all I can offer is this photo from the National Forest Service. I’ll take a drive up there soon and report back on what’s there.

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One thought on “Solar Power National Forest

  1. Catching the javelina is the challenge. Once you have it, they are a piece of cake to swing around.

    On my way back from AZ today, I saw a huge new array going in right off I-40 near Albuquerque, I think (after that many hours in the car, I’m not sure where I am). But I was thrilled, no matter where it was! Looking forward to your report on Tonto’s solar array. Maybe I will check it out and camp there come spring.

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