Archive for January, 2015

Help island kids learn about solar energy

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Community-Solar-for-Schools

click to enlarge

It’s good to be exposed to environmental issues at a young age. Giving kids hands-on experiences helps them understand the importance of living sustainably and how easy it can be to make a difference.

Community Solar for Our Schools is a collaborative project – developed by Islands Energy, administered by the San Juan Islands Conservation District, and sponsored and supported by OPALCO and Bonneville Environmental Foundation. The project will generate renewable solar energy for San Juan County public schools, reducing the schools’ electricity costs (all the energy generated will be donated to the school districts) – and providing tremendous educational opportunities.

Solar for Four Island Schools

Four solar arrays will be installed at the public school districts on Lopez, Orcas, San Juan, and Shaw Islands. Bonneville Environmental Foundation will provide educational curriculum, materials, and teacher training through their Solar 4R Schools Program, to support the schools’ science programs.

Middle-school girls build a solar-powered Lego lawnmower in Science class

Middle-school girls build a solar-powered Lego lawnmower in Science class

The total cost is anticipated to be $200,000. Member participants will provide $140,000, and Bonneville Environmental Foundation and OPALCO will make up the difference. There will be no cost to the school districts for the purchase or installation of the solar arrays. Member contributions to date are over $70,000, including local businesses community organizations.  The Orcas Island Odd Fellows contributed $10,000; the Orcas Island Lions Club contributed $500.

Contributions Can Be Treated As Micro-Loan

San Juan County residents and businesses residing in the OPALCO service territory can participate by purchasing 1 to 100 solar units. Each solar unit (approximately 50 Watts) costs $100, and each participant can purchase up to 100 solar units (5 kW for $20,000). Participants will receive annual energy production incentive payments through 2024 (at a rate of $.30 per kW hour).  It is estimated that these incentives will pay back participants for the cost of the solar units purchased within 10 years.  In other words, your loans help kick-start the program, and you receive payments back each year.

Solar for our schools is a concept coming to life. The energy is there, the students are eager to learn, and installation is slated for Spring 2015. Please consider contributing. There are three ways to sign up:

1) Email solar@sjislandscd.org

2) Online www.sjislandscd.org

3) Call the San Juan Islands Conservation District at 378-6621

To read about other local renewable education projects OPALCO has sponsored, click the links below:

 

Energy Upgrades on a Budget

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

OPALCO energy rebates

Worth replacing? One of the old single-pane windows that energy auditors have recommended replacing. The homeowner wonders where to put that on his priority list.

If your intention is to improve the comfort and energy efficiency of your home, but your house is old, has little insulation, drafty windows, poor heating…and you are on a budget…where do you begin?

This was the question posed by reader Christian Rodriguez at Green Building Advisor, and here is their answer:

Christian Rodriguez has taken an important first step in improving the energy efficiency and comfort of his 1880s home by arranging for an energy audit. With the results in hand, his first step was to air-seal the attic and add 20 inches of cellulose insulation. This made quite a difference both in comfort and heating bills.

Now comes a difficult decision: what to do next?

The audit has identified four additional things Rodriguez could do to further improve the energy efficiency and comfort of his old home:

  • insulate the walls of the house with dense-packed cellulose
  • insulate the crawl space with closed-cell spray polyurethane foam
  • replace four drafty windows that are original to the house
  • install a high-efficiency air-source heat pump

Green Building advisor notes: “Unfortunately, there is only enough [money in the] budget for one of the four options (all estimates within $200-$300 of each other).

The experts all agree – the best thing to do next is improve the building envelope before spending any money on upgrades to the mechanical systems. Read their detailed suggestions here: An Energy Upgrade On a Budget.

If you’re ready to start looking into energy upgrades for your home, call us at 376-3500 to schedule a $25 Home Snapshot Assessment.

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