Park seeks comments
Great Smoky Mountains News
November 14, 2016
Dana Soehn, Dana_Soehn@nps.gov,
Jamie Sanders, Jamie_Sanders@nps.gov, 865-436-1203
Park Invites Public
Comment on Mt. Sterling Solar Project
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials invite the
public to comment on a proposed sustainable energy project through December 13,
2016. Duke Energy has proposed installing an array of solar panels, coupled
with a zinc-air battery, to power critical park communications equipment
located atop the remote Mt. Sterling in the Haywood County area of the park.
Duke Energy currently delivers power to the site along a 3.5-mile overhead line
that extends from the park boundary at Mt. Sterling Road (Hwy NC284) to the Mt.
Sterling Fire Lookout Tower.
The radio equipment is a vital component of the park’s
emergency communication system. The solar microgrid would operate separately
from the energy grid and would allow greater reliability while using a renewable
energy source. The proposed solar array would consist of 30 panels and
would cover an area approximately 40 feet long, 15 feet wide and 10.5 feet tall
at the highest point. A small area south of the panels would need to be kept
free of tall trees to minimize shading. Current estimates show that fewer than
10 trees would need to be cleared. If approved and installed, the microgrid
would allow the existing overhead line to be decommissioned and the existing
maintained corridor would return to a natural state.
Park staff have initiated the National Environmental Policy
Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and other compliance processes to
evaluate potential adverse and beneficial impacts of the proposed project on
the natural, cultural, and human environment. Staff invite the public to
comment on the proposed project using the National Park Service’s Planning,
Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website and following the link titled
“Mt. Sterling Sustainable Energy Project” at
https://parkplanning.nps.gov/grsm or by US Mail to Superintendent,
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN
37738. Duke Energy recently filed details on the proposed project with the
North Carolina Utilities Commission, which must approve the project prior to
implementation. If approved by the National Park Service and the North Carolina
Utilities Commission, implementation could begin in Spring 2017.