Campgrounds and RV parks in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills are finding it pays to be green.

The latest case in point is Auburn Gold Country RV Resort in Auburn.

The 66-site park, which also has three rental cabins and a small tent section, just completed installation of a $500,000 solar power system.

“It’s a 105-kilowatt system that covers about 60 percent of our electrical needs,” park owner John Grant stated in a news release.

Grant received a federal grant for the project, which covered $150,000 or 30 percent of the cost. He financed the remaining $350,000 with a 6 percent loan from Placer County.

“We’re a big rig park and those big RVs draw lots of power,” Grant said. “But the savings from generating our own solar power will offset what we have to pay in loans, so we’ll break even.”

Grant added that he’ll receive additional tax and depreciation savings as a result of installing the solar power system, which includes 444 panels on a 1.5-acre section of his park.

The solar system will also offset a considerable amount of carbon emissions each year, including 212,000 pounds of carbon dioxide; 145 pounds of NOX, a leading cause of smog; 36 pounds of S02, a leading cause of acid rain; and 42 pounds of particulates.

“We’re able to achieve these carbon pollution offsets because the power we consume with the solar system doesn’t have to be generated elsewhere,” Grant said.

Auburn Gold Country RV Resort is not the only privately owned RV resort in the Sierra foothills to have solar power.

Angels Camp Makes Solar Investment Too

Angels Camp RV & Camping Resort saves $1,200 a month on its electricity bill.

Three years ago, Angels Camp RV & Camping Resort in neighboring Calaveras County installed a solar energy system.

The 89-site park, which serves as a weekend getaway for San Joaquin Valley residents, is saving $1,200 a month on its electricity bill by leasing a solar energy system, which generates more electricity than the park needs during the week when park occupancies are down.

“We end up selling power back to Pacific Gas & Electric at a higher rate than we buy it because we don’t use that much power during the week,” said park owner Ken Jeffries. And when the park needs to buy extra power from the utility, it does so on weekends, when utility rates are down.

“We buy electricity at a low rate and sell it at a high rate,” he said.

The California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds, for its part, is continually searching for economical and sustainable practices that its affiliated parks can implement, and it shares this information through educational seminars and industry newsletters, said Debbie Sipe, the association’s executive director. Here’s a sampling of other green initiatives launched by campgrounds and RV parks in California and Nevada:

  • Campland on the Bay in San Diego: This park has invested in water saving showerheads and recycle bins. The park also encourages its employees to bicycle across the park as much as possible rather than use company vehicles while making their rounds.
  • Cottonwood Cove Resort and Marina on Lake Mohave: This park, which is owned and operated by Forever Resorts, plans to build the nation’s first ever LEED certified floating green building this year. The floating eco-friendly structure, which will house boat rental and servicing operations, will feature energy-efficient and environmentally responsible materials, including high-efficiency HVAC equipment; roof-mounted photovoltaic panels that capture sunlight and produce electricity; and extensive use of recycled materials and finish materials with low or no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) to ensure healthy indoor air quality.
  • Coyote Valley RV Resort in Morgan Hill: This park has invested in native, drought tolerant plants.
  • Far Horizons 49’er Village RV Resort in Plymouth: This park opened a new swimming pool complex three years ago that includes energy efficient pumps. Additionally, the park invested about $25,000 to develop a new source for raw water for resort irrigation needs. The park is also reviewing proposals to develop a solar energy product to augment its pool heating needs while providing hot water for its laundry and shower facilities.
  • Pinewood Cove at Trinity Center: This 100-site campground, which includes 15 park model rental units, uses only environmentally friendly cleaning products as well as energy and water saving devices, such as fluorescent light bulbs and low-flow shower heads. The park, which is managed by Forever Resorts, also provides recycling bins at every campsite.
  • Pleasure Cove Marina at Lake Berryessa: Also managed by Forever Resorts, the campground associated with this marina uses only environmentally friendly cleaning products as well as energy and water saving devices, such as fluorescent light bulbs and low-flow shower heads. The park also provides recycling bins at every campsite.
  • Vineyard RV Park in Vacaville: This 119-site park, roughly 45 minutes northeast of San Francisco, has invested in water and energy saving fixtures after requesting water and power audits from its local utilities. The resulting savings enabled the park to recoup its investment in one year. The park, which has been certified as a green business by Solano County, is also using recycled paper and eco-certified paper towels, toilet paper and cleaning supplies.