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Lamar Buffalo Ranch Zero Emissions Power System

Lamar Buffalo Ranch is a remote site in Yellowstone National Park that is 100% off-grid. No utility power is available, and the previous power supply system consisted of a very small photovoltaic (PV) array and two propane-fired generators. The existing generators operated about 1,000 hours each per year, consuming 6,500 gallons of fuel to address power consumption of about 28,000 kWH per year.

Cushing Terrell designed the new micro-hydroelectric turbine, configured the electrical integration, and designed the architectural buildings housing this first-of-its-kind, off-grid power system, completely replacing the existing setup. The new system integrated:

  • PV array consisting of (176) 250-watt PV panels, donated by Sharp.
  • Battery storage system consisting of (208) recycled NiMH batteries from Toyota Camry cars. Batteries and battery racks were donated by Toyota North America.
  • 50 kW inverter/rectifier, donated by Indie Power Systems.
  • 40 kW propane-fired backup generator.
  • Energy monitoring system to track power production, and power and gas consumption at all buildings. The monitoring system includes dashboard displays in all of the buildings and a website to display real-time power production and consumption.
  • 4.5 kW micro-hydro turbine. The turbine utilizes the existing 4″ pipe that serves domestic water to the site, which is fed from a spring about a half-mile from the site. The 200-ft. drop in elevation creates enough head and flow to produce 4.5kW of power 24/7/365. Water passes through the turbine and is discharged into Rose Creek.
  • Log structure to house the turbine.
  • Log addition to the existing battery building to house the backup generator, inverter, and other electrical gear.

The PV array and micro-hydroelectric turbine produce more than the site needs, with the backup generator only operating in the event of a system failure. The oversized electrical system allows previous propane loads (dryers, ovens, etc.) to now run exclusively on electricity.

Cushing Terrell has designed similar micro-hydroelectric power generation facilities in both Mammoth Hot Springs (also in Yellowstone National Park) and Whitefish, MT. Meanwhile, the system at Lamar Buffalo Ranch is a functioning new model for creating efficient, 100% off-grid energy creation, storage, and use.

National Park Service (NPS)

Yellowstone National Park, WY

Electrical Engineering