Archive for the ‘Renewable Energy’ Topic

Annual Report – Win a $50 Bill Credit

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

OPALCO’s 2015 Annual Report is ready for your reading pleasure. We want you to know who we are and what we are up to. So much so, in fact, that if you read the report and take the Treasure Hunt quiz, we’ll enter you to win a $50 bill credit. Go for the gold!

Help island kids learn about solar energy

Thursday, January 29th, 2015


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

2) Online

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:


Come to your local Energy Fairs in May and June!

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

OPALCO is asking all members to understand the sources of electric power and to be aware of their personal energy usage habits and savings options.  Please join the OPALCO Energy Savings team, the M.O.R.E. (Member Owned Renewable Energy) committee, and Islands Energy at upcoming local Energy Fairs.  Participate in solar home tours, efficiency and conservation workshops, kids activities, raffle prizes, and more!  Here are the details:

San Juan Island: Saturday, May 17th; 10am to 3pm @ 95 Nichols Street

Lopez Island: Saturday, May 31st; 10am to 3pm @ Lopez Center for Community and the Arts

Orcas Island: Saturday, June 7th; 10am to 3pm @ Eastsound Village Green

Other highlights include:

  • Free energy savings kitsIslands Energy Logo
  • Demonstrations of electric vehicles
  • A presentation about planned Community Solar projects
  • Information about home energy audits and locally generated power
  • Information about OPALCO efficiency rebate programs
  • Local contractor booths
  • Energy keynote speakers
  • Live music by The Field Boats, a Lopez Island band

These fairs represent launch events for the newly-formed partnership between OPALCO and the San Juan Islands Conservation District.

The Conservation District serves as an umbrella organization for other local and regional nonprofits joining the efforts to increase energy and conservation education and to pilot a Community Solar program in San Juan County.  The collective group has adopted the name Islands Energy.

Due to limited availability and anticipated demand, reservations for the Home Energy Conservation Workshop and the Solar Home Tours are recommended. To reserve a spot, please call the Conservation District at 360-378-6621 or email to pre-register.



Ocean Wave Power

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

An exciting event happened this past week in the area of Wave Power. The first wave power station in the United States received a license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build and deploy up to 10 Ocean Power Technology (OPT) devices off the coast of Oregon. These devices together are planned to generate 1.5MW of power. This is the equivalent of powering approximately 1,000 homes.

Living on an island in the NW, we often wonder about the feasibility of tidal and wave power. Tidal power is created by using the ebb and flow of the tides. Wave power is created by using the up and down motion of waves. Both types of systems are beginning to be deployed around the world. Still considered expensive, when compared to traditional electricity generation and even to the costs of other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, advances in technology and economies of scale should bring the costs of ocean power down.

Read the full article

Learn more about tidal and wave power


How Clean and Green is the Electricity that OPALCO Delivers?

Friday, August 17th, 2012

OPALCO is contracted with Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to secure the lowest cost, most reliable power for our member owners. Each year, BPA reports on the fuel mix—the various sources of electrical generation—that were delivered to us for distribution. The 2011 fuel mix report shows that our fuel mix was 97% greenhouse-gas free with more than 90% of our power being generated by clean and green hydro-electric turbines. Greenhouse gases are those that absorb and emit radiation within the thermal infrared range. The process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect, which contributes to global warming.

The components of the fuel mix vary from year (see this year’s detailed report) due to the availability of wind power and Columbia Generating Station (nuclear energy), which shuts down every two years for refueling and routine maintenance. Additionally, from time to time BPA requests Columbia Generating Station reduce power due to current or expected high water levels in the federal hydroelectric system.

The other components of the fuel mix represent less than 3% of the total generation and include (in order of prevalence): coal, natural gas, biomass, waste, petroleum, landfill gases, solar, co-generation, geo-thermal and other.

What about all the member-owned renewable energy (MORE) generated locally by OPALCO members? There are more than 80 members who generate their own power and are interconnected to OPALCO’s grid. The total kWh annual production is over 200,000 kWh compared to the total co-op annual consumption of about 200,000,000 kWh. However, with the promise of higher rates tied to load growth in the near future, everything we can do as a co-op to reduce our load—every kWh we can avoid using through efficiency and conservation or that we generate ourselves—will help us to shape our own energy future.

What will you do to be more efficient and avoid kWh use in your home or business?


Friday, April 6th, 2012

Continuing the theme of WIND POWER, one of our members sent in this link to an amazing new art project that shows, in real-time, the surface wind speeds over all of the United States.  Surface wind data comes from the National Digital Forecast Database.  You can zoom in on the map to see more detail.

Follow this link to the project


Friday, March 16th, 2012

Since the first WIND POWER blog two weeks ago, we have received over 20 phone calls and in person questions about these two systems. It is true that wind power is on the minds of local islanders!

Here is a summary of the questions we have received and answers we compiled:

For ease, Turbine 1 is the tall turbine system on Lopez and Turbine 2 is the round turbine system on Orcas.

Q. What are the sizes in kW of the wind turbines?
A. Turbine 1 is 10 kW and Turbine 2 is 2.5 kW

Q. How much energy per year will the turbines produce?
A. Turbine 1 is estimated to produce 12,000kWh per year.  Turbine 2 is estimated to produce 3,000kWh per year. Our average member uses approximately 800 kWh per month.

Q. How were these turbines permitted?
A. Turbine 1 was very costly and time consuming to permit because of its height at 120 feet. It was the first of its kind to go through the San Juan County permitting process and actually helped pave the way for future wind systems. Turbine 2 was much simpler to permit as the height is only 35 feet.

Q. What is the name of the company that manufactures these turbines and how much do they cost?
A. Turbine 1 is manufactured by Xzeres ( We do not have cost data on these particular systems but a wind turbine of this type and height could be in the neighborhood of $100k. Turbine 2 is manufactured by Home Energy America ( One of these turbines would be in the neighborhood of $20k.

Q. What other resources are at these properties?
A. The Turbine 1 property also as solar PV. The Turbine 2 property has a geothermal heat pump and is planning to add solar PV.

Please direct your additional questions about these wind systems or any renewable energy systems to the OPALCO Energy Services Department at 376-3571 or

Turbine 2

Turbine 1


Friday, March 2nd, 2012

it is an exciting time for small scale wind power in San Juan County. Two very different wind turbine systems have recently connected to the OPALCO grid.  The first is the somewhat traditional looking 120’ turbine on Lopez manufactured by Xzeres. This 10kW system is expected to produce over 12,000 kWh per year. The second installation is the two turbine, futuristic looking Earth Ball system on Orcas.  These turbines are manufactured by Home Energy America and are rated at 2.5kW each. The expected yearly output for each Earth Ball is 3000kWh.

Both owner-members have signed up for the MORE (Member Owned Renewable Energy) program and will be receiving a production incentive funded by the voluntary contributions of other Co-op members who support local renewable energy generation.  If you want to support the MORE program, check the box on your paper bill or call in to let us know at 376-3500.

The OPALCO Energy Services staff will be monitoring these new wind systems along with their owners for performance numbers. We will report back in six months with the data.

The High-Stakes Math Behind the West’s Greatest River

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Hydro-electric power makes up about 83% of the energy that OPALCO delivers to its members on 20 islands in San Juan County. That hydro power comes from the Federal Columbia River Power System: dams like the Bonneville and the Grand Coulee on the Columbia River. Managing the dams and the flow of water and power is a series of complex equations. Check out this article (due to be published in Forbes Magazine on November 7th) for a in-depth look at how our hydro system works.

OPALCO’s MORE Program Pays Dividends to Renewable Generators

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Earlier this year a volunteer group of OPALCO members built a new green power program in support of local renewable energy – electricity generated by our fellow members. The first MORE (Member Owned Renewable Energy) incentives were paid out at the end of August for the period of July 1, 2010 – June 30, 2011. So far, fourteen member generators have signed up with the MORE Program.  The total incentives paid for 2011 was $5,493; and the total allowable kWh generated was 18,311kWh (2 systems generated more than the 4,000 kWh cap, one system being 8.82 KW and the other 5.8KW in size). All of the member generators are solar and they produced a total of 23,925 kWh.

There are two ways members can participate in the MORE Program: Producers – members who install new renewable energy systems and interconnect to the OPALCO grid and Contributors – members who opt for monthly or one-time donations to support the fund.

As of August 2011 we have forty-three co-op members who elect to go “All Green”, paying a 4 cent premium on top of the regular charge per kWh and we have four hundred and sixty-six members that are purchasing $4 “blocks”, per month totaling 990 blocks so far.  Participation is 4.2% of the OPALCO membership.

How can you participate? It’s easy. If you are already opting into OPALCO’s green power program you can simply continue as before—the difference is where your donations are put to work: right here in San Juan County. If you want to join OPALCO’s green power program, check the box on your paper bill or call 376-3500.