Great Smoky Mountains National Park Off-the-Grid Solar PV

NPS Great Smoky Mountains Off-the-Grid Solar Power System at At Cades Cove




CROFT conducted a solar energy study and full engineering design for a remote, off-the-grid 36kW solar photo-voltaic power system linked to an existing battery bank and gas powered generator system at the Historic Cades Cove recreation area in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

After a national search by the NPS in Denver, CROFT was selected to lead the technically complex process of integrating a fully off-the-grid solar photovoltaic system as the third power supply element in a legacy battery-bank and gas generator system. After a solar study and load analysis that identified a need for 30% larger system than originally projected, CROFT led the electrical, civil, and landscape architectural design to site the solar array while carefully screening it from historically significant site amenities at the Cable Mill Visitor’s Center.

The solar array provide a silent energy source to serve the small visitor center, bookstore, and restroom facility in the Cable Mill area. The panels are located behind the restroom in an area that receives maximum exposure from both morning and afternoon sun. A low berm planted with native vegetation was created around the array to minimize the visual intrusion on the historic landscape and the area’s natural beauty.  The array consist of 80 panels and occupy a 40 by 65-foot area.

Solar energy project will annually reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 23 tons and reduce fuel costs by $14,000. Formerly, the park used a diesel-fuel generator for power at the site, which often caused noise disruptions to park programs and the visitor experience to the historic landscape. The old power system consisted of a propane-fueled generator and battery system, which was costly and labor-intensive to operate.


  • Solar PV Study

  • Electrical

  • Civil

  • Historic Landscape

  • RFP Bid Support

  • SHPO Coordination

  • Off-the-Grid Solar Design

  • Back-up Power System

  • Subsurface Utilities

  • Cost Estimating

  • Permitting

  • Public Involvement

  • Interpretive Design

  • Quality Assurance