Energy Savings Blog

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.



Friday Harbor Labs Reap Big Savings with Lighting Upgrades

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

The University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs is receiving a rebate check for $46,230 after completing a substantial lighting efficiency upgrade project in late March.  This retrofit was a component of a larger ESCO project to “green up” facilities.  The lab upgraded to high performance linear bulbs and ballasts and replaced incandescent lighting with LEDs.  This will result in an estimated energy savings of 101,333 kWhs annually!

OPALCO Energy Savings Specialist Elisa Howard will present the rebate check at 4pm on Friday, May 2nd to Lisa Graumlich, the Dean of the UW College of the Environment.  The public is welcome to attend the presentation at the labs to learn more about this exciting project.

OPALCO’s rebate program is funded by Bonneville Power Administration to help incentivize energy efficiency upgrades in San Juan County.  Since 10/1/13, the OPALCO Energy Savings staff has issued a total of $241,115 in rebate checks to members with a collective estimated annual kWh savings of 825,089.

Have you claimed your share of energy efficiency rebates?  Click here for more information or to learn about other OPALCO efficiency and conservation programs.

UW FH Labs

UW Friday Harbor Labs

Cash in on OPALCO Rebates!

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Spotlight on Energy Rebates: Meichelle Roberts, San Juan Island

Meichelle Roberts

Meichelle Roberts,


Member Meichelle Roberts of San Juan Island noticed her high electric bills and knew it was time to take action. She called OPALCO to learn more about available efficiency rebate incentives to help offset the cost of home improvements she was considering. The payback was huge! Meichelle replaced windows, installed a ductless heat pump, and upgraded her insulation. This made her home significantly more efficient, and Meichelle received checks from OPALCO totaling $6,163.

To further reduce her out of pocket costs, Meichelle joined the Opportunity Council’s Community Energy Challenge and received an additional 30% off the cost of these upgrades. The estimated energy savings for these upgrades totaled 17,871 kWhs!

Meichelle is very happy with the final outcome. “Through the collaboration of OPALCO and the Community Energy Challenge, these improvements to my home were affordable and reduced my long-term utility expenses. I am absolutely satisfied with the results. The program process was also very easy.”

When asked why energy efficiency is important to her, Meichelle responded “Everyone should take an active role to participate in conserving energy. I liked doing my piece as a part of the big picture goal. Saving resources is always important. It’s more than avoiding waste, it is a financial responsibility as well. “

Join Meichelle in the effort to reduce energy waste! To claim your incentives while making your home more energy efficient, call the OPALCO Energy Savings team at 376-3586 or contact us via email.


Let’s Go Custom – Local Energy Efficiency Projects Create Big Savings

Friday, April 12th, 2013

This past week OPALCO handed out rebate checks totaling $22,184.00.  The two custom designed energy efficiency projects are expected to save 137,075 kWh per year.  That is equivalent to taking approximately 11 average houses off the grid.

The first project was at Friday Harbor Elementary School where United Energy Engineers installed two variable speed drives for the heat pump circulating system. This project was measured post-install by BPA and is saving more energy than estimated!

The second project was at the Orcas Emmanuel Episcopal Church where local contractors, Greg Reboulet and Sage Building, installed weatherization measures in the shell of the building. The old water-facing windows were replaced.  Insulation was added to the attic and the crawlspace after a great deal of air sealing was performed.

George Garrels (l) and Bishop Craig Anderson(r) receive their check in front of the new windows.

Rick Thompson, Superintendent of San Juan Island School District, receives their rebate check.

Understanding LUMENS and the New Labeling for Lighting

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

You might have heard recently all the talk about banning the incandescent light bulb. It’s not really a ban but a legislation to increase the efficiency of light bulbs – similar to increasing the miles per gallon of automobiles. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required light bulbs to use at least 25 percent less energy beginning in 2012. The uproar was that this requirement could make the old incandescent bulbs obsolete if manufacturers didn’t meet the new efficiency standards.

The requirement for lighting efficiency has spurred new technologies and the new consumer options for lighting can be mind boggling. Have you been in a big-box store lately to shop for light bulbs?

Here’s some information to help sort through the new options and labeling in light bulbs. Read the new labels and look at the LUMENS not the watts. Lumens tell you how much light you are going to get; wattage indicates how much energy is being consumed. Lumens are what you are buying for your money. The more lumens–the brighter the light.

Here’s some rule of thumb (from

  • To replace a 100W (watt) incandescent bulb, look for a bulb that gives you about 1600 lumens. If you want something dimmer, go for fewer lumens; if you prefer brighter, go for more lumens.
  • Replace a 75W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 1100 lumens
  • Replace a 60W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 800 lumens
  • Replace a 40W bulb with an energy-saving bulb that gives you about 450 lumens.

To become fully “enlightened” on lumens and new lighting labels, watch this video from

Remember, when looking for new light bulbs, you want to compare lumens with lumens. Lumens is a measure of how much light output the bulb has or brightness (see post 3/14/11). A typical 60 watt incandescent light bulb has a lumen output of 820 lumens. An equivalent compact fluorescent bulb will have the same lumen output but far less electricity needs such as 13 watts. That’s a savings of 47 watts for the same amount of light.


Triple Rebate Savings on Super Efficienct Heat Pump Water Heaters

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Heat pump water heaters have just been approved by BPA for rebates. There is a limited offer to bundle three rebates together for these super efficient water heaters if you purchase one from Sears between November 15 – December 16th. OPALCO is offering rebates of $300 on 50–75 Gal. heat pump water heaters and $500 on heat pump water heaters larger than 75 Gal. This is combined with rebate offers from Sears & GE, and Smart Water Heat for incredible savings. Learn more here.

Heat pump water heaters use electricity to move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly, like a refrigerator running in reverse. While a refrigerator pulls heat from inside a box and dumps it into the surrounding room, a heat pump water heater pulls heat from the surrounding air and transfers it – at a higher temperature – into the tank to heat the water. The best locations for a heat pump water heater are in a basement or garage, where the unit will not be drawing heat out of a living space. Learn more about heat pump water heaters.

Fall and Winter Energy-Saving Tips

Friday, October 26th, 2012

See the linked article below to find strategies to help you save energy during the cool fall and cold winter months. Some of the tips below are free and can be used on a daily basis to increase your savings; others are simple and inexpensive actions you can take to ensure maximum savings through the winter.

  • Cover drafty windows
  • Adjust the thermostat
  • Find and seal leaks
  • Maintain your heating systems
  • Reduce heat loss from the fireplace
  • Lower your water heating costs

Learn these simple tips, tools and strategies – and more:  Fall and Winter Energy-Saving Tips from the U.S. Dept of Energy

If you haven’t already, schedule a Home Snapshot energy assessment to find out where you can save the most, and consider making a larger investment for long-term energy savings.


Monday, September 17th, 2012

Orcas Power & Light Cooperative awarded ten new homeowners on San Juan Island with checks for $1,710 each for the energy efficient homes that they helped to build through Homes for Islanders. The homes received the Northwest Energy Star certification ( and are estimated to save approximately 3,000kWh/year for each home over a standard home built to building code.

Building homes to the Energy Star standards guarantees that the home’s envelope is properly sealed and insulated. Energy efficient windows, heating systems, appliances and lighting are all requirements and everything is verified by a third party. The homes are more comfortable and the utility bills much smaller.

The checks were presented at a luncheon at OPALCO’s Friday Harbor office on Friday, September 14th.

EPRI Calculates Annual Cost of Charging an iPad

Friday, September 7th, 2012

According to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), consumers who fully charge their iPad tablet daily can expect to pay $1.36 a year.

The analysis shows that each model of the iPad consumes less than 12 kWh of electricity over the course of a year, based on a full charge every other day. By comparison, a plasma 42” television consumes 358 kWh of electricity a year. Costs may vary depending on what region that a consumer resides and the price of electricity in a particular location.

According to Apple, 67 million of the devices have been purchased worldwide. EPRI calculations show that the average energy used by all iPads in the market is approximately 590 gigawatt hours (GWh). In a scenario where the number of iPads tripled over the next two years, the energy required would be nearly equivalent to two 250-megawatt (MW) power plants operating at a 50 percent utilization rate. A quadrupling of sales in two years would require energy generated by three 250-MW power plants.

Read the full story

About EPRI: The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. conducts research and development relating to the generation, delivery and use of electricity for the benefit of the public. An independent, nonprofit organization, EPRI brings together its scientists and engineers as well as experts from academia and industry to help address challenges in electricity, including reliability, efficiency, health, safety and the environment. EPRI’s members represent more than 90 percent of the electricity generated and delivered in the United States, and international participation extends to 40 countries. EPRI’s principal offices and laboratories are located in Palo Alto, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Lenox, Mass.

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