LANDER — Entering the Noble Hotel on Main Street in Lander is a little like momentarily taking a step back in time.
Much of the wooden furniture is the same as it was decades before. An old phone both is nestled behind the stairs. “Drug” is written across an original door, marking the town’s old drug store. And a “Smokery and Confectionary” sign still hangs in one of the front rooms.
When you start to look closer, you’ll see the influence of time. Light shining through old stained glass windows bathes a bay of computers. A flat-screen television occupies a corner of an old store front. But the biggest modernization of the hotel isn’t so easily spotted. Atop the roof of the nationally registered historic building, 108 solar panels gather energy from the sun, producing about 30 percent of the building’s power.
The panels went online in April and make the hotel the fourth-largest solar project in Wyoming, said Karly Copeland, the sustainability coordinator at the National Outdoor Leadership School.
“Sustainability and self-reliance are at the heart of the NOLS curriculum and this is a really powerful example of this,” she said.
Work on the solar panels started about two years ago, Copeland said. Combined with the NOLS Rocky Mountain building, which also recently began using solar energy, the project is the third largest in Wyoming, she said. Both buildings’ solar panels were partially funded by a grant from the Rocky Mountain Power Blue Sky Energy initiative.
Despite its historical status — the Noble Hotel became part of the National Register of Historic places in the 1980s — there weren’t challenges with installation, Copeland said. The panels remain unobtrusive since they are situated on the roof, out of site.
The Noble Hotel first opened its doors in 1918 as one of the swankiest hotels in the West. Trains dropped off visitors from across the county in Lander and while the tourists awaited their tours to Yellowstone National Park, they stayed in the hotel, said Melissa Hemken, foundation relations officer with NOLS.
While the school bought the building in the 1970s, it didn’t renovate the old structure until the 2000s, when it had to make the building meet required codes, she said.
When NOLS started renovations it strove to keep the historical integrity of the hotel.
While the hotel still looks, in many ways, the same way it did when it opened, NOLS students and visitors can learn about the solar energy coming from the roof by checking out displays listing real-time energy production and use by the front desk and a display that can be seen on Main Street.
It’s a way to get people thinking about energy use and how they can be more efficient themselves, said Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin, a spokeswoman for NOLS. It also is a way to show the public what NOLS does and believes in.
“We teach leave-no-trace and sustainability in the backcountry,” she said. “This is a way of bringing it to the front country.”