Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose is famous for its fossilized dinosaur tracks and life-sized dinosaur models, but now visitors will be able to view those models in the shade while the park is powered by renewable solar energy.

Dinosaur Valley State Park held an unveiling last week with Green Mountain Energy and Texas Parks and Wildlife officials to celebrate “flipping the switch” on solar installations.

“We’re a conservation agency,” said Andee Chamberlain, sustainability program manager with Texas Parks and Wildlife. “Our mission is to conserve resources for present and future generations and energy is one of those resources to conserve. We purchase energy. We have to have energy for our parts, but we had an opportunity this year: when we bid our energy, it was a competitive bid for our utilities, and when we bid it out, we compared the costs of traditional fossil fuel energy to renewable energy and there was really only a one percent cost difference so it wasn’t a lot more expensive for us to purchase renewable energy and it fit in line with our mission."

Green Mountain Energy provided funds for TPWD to purchase solar installations at three state parks across Texas as part of its long-standing sustainability partnership.

Dinosaur Valley State Park, Estero Llano Grande State Park and Eisenhower State Park will all benefit from the installations that will provide more than 67 kilowatts of renewable energy, completely powered by the sun.

Chamberlain believes the solar installations will have a positive affect on Dinosaur Valley State Park.

“First, it’s going to cut operations cost so the energy that the visitor center uses is almost going to be completely covered by the solar generation so that energy bill is basically going to get cut for the park so the park can redirect that money into services for the public. Plus, it’s going to provide a really good space for the public to meet and to do interpretive programs, get out in the sun and just enjoy the park more,” she said.

At Dinosaur Valley, a display of solar panels also functions as a beneficial shade structure for visitors and educational events while optimizing viewing potential for the park’s dinosaur models. Estero Llano Grande and Eisenhower facilities also feature custom solar installations.

Chamberlain said there are three things she is looking forward to with the change.

“[I am looking forward to] reducing energy bills, but also cleaner air and the education aspect of it — teaching our young visitors about renewable energy, allowing them to see it in a park, learn from it, understand it and hopefully grow up to support it on their own,” she said.