Despite its sinister history as a world-famous prison, no one’s stopping Alcatraz from becoming an innovative learning center for the latest in green technology. With its location in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz is perfectly positioned to play host to solar, wind, and tidal power. The new turn to green comes on its 100th birthday, and the National Park Service is putting a ton of its own resources into this prison-turned-tourist destination, making sure power, water, and even transportation to and from the island is entirely sustainable.


The green overhaul comes with a $3.5 million dollar price tag, which includes a new updated audio tour (the previous one was 20 years old), access to areas that were previously closed off to visitors, and replanting of the island gardens which have lain dormant for years. They also plan to make the island more self-sufficient through the generation of potable water, making use of the sewage wasted, and supplementing their sustainable energy resources with biofuel generators, leaving traditional diesel behind.

Drinking water for the island is currently shipped in from the surrounding area, but researchers are looking at the feasibility of the island maintaining a desalination plant powered by micro wind turbines. There are also potential new uses for the island’s unused water cisterns, which could store collected rainwater and treated wastewater.

Getting to and from the island will be greener as well thanks to state-of-the-art, hybrid-powered boats and a $10 million multi-year contract between the National Parks Service and Hornblower Cruises. Named after the company’s namesake, Solar Sailor, the technology for the boats comes from Austrailla and is similar to the ones used in Sydney for their Harbor Tours. The two 120-foot boats will carry 400 to 600 visitors in a single trip. Terry MacRae, CEO of Hornblower and the subsidiary, Alcatraz Cruises, has been quoted referring to the Solar Sailor as a “Prius on steroids.” The first of the Solar Sailors are expected to be released next year with the second to follow in five years.

Now local San Franciscans have more of a reason take their guests to visit Alcatraz, even if they’ve already been a few times before. Additional uses for the famous prison are being investigated, although it’s questionable whether or not they’ll ever pursue the slightly creepy idea of “spending the night in a cellblock.” It doesn’t mean other parts of the prison can’t be opened for an entertaining evening, including the onsite chapel and the old laundry facility. The National Parks Services is happy to report that the corporate world has already taken notice, so book now before the prison reaches full capacity.

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