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It’s a ‘fish mob’ at Rocky Reach

Posted in Fish tales on July 14th, 2014 by Brenna Visser – Be the first to comment

2012 fish runWhen I hear words like “ladder” or “bypass,” I think of something that might be a bit of a challenge, or even something that could be dangerous. But for salmon, those are welcomed words. You can see this for yourself as more than 300,000 of them are happily and safely swimming past Rocky Reach Visitor Center viewing windows this summer.

Around 10,000 to 20,000 sockeye and 1,000 to 2,000 Chinook are making their way upstream every day the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates. As Thad Mosey, a fish biologist here at the PUD said, they are “…the biggest summer Chinook I’ve ever seen.” See fish counts at Rocky Reach and Rock Island dams

“…the biggest summer Chinook I’ve ever seen.” Thad Mosey, Chelan PUD fish biologist

That’s a lot of big fish. Good thing there are five fish viewing windows at the visitor center to see them. But, how do all these salmon get from the river to viewing windows?

It is a lot less daunting than it may seem. What you see at Rocky Reach Visitor Center is actually the west side of the fish ladder. The ladder consists of a series of 100 pools of falling water, each 1 foot above the other. Adult fish heading upstream are attracted to the ladder by water flow at fish ladder entrances located at the base of the spillway, the center dam and along the downstream side of the powerhouse.

Even after 100 steps, studies have shown that there is no delay to the return trip of adult salmon to spawning grounds. Apparently 100 steps in the fish world isn’t as big of a deal as it is for the rest of us.

So this summer when you see your sockeye and Chinook salmon friends at Rocky Reach Visitor Center, you can appreciate what it took for them to meet you eye to eye through the viewing glass.

Expand your Rocky Reach Visitor Center experience by touring the powerhouse and talking with employees on July 26 as a way to “Rediscover Your PUD.”  Call (509) 663-7522 to reserve your spot on a hardhat tour of Rocky Reach. There will more “inside the dam” tours at Rock Island and Lake Chelan dams later in the summer and fall this year.

Friends and enemies in the garden

Posted in Environment, Water conservation on July 10th, 2014 by Susan – Be the first to comment

PrintGood bugs and bad bugs are the topic of a workshop Thursday, July 24 that will include a field trip to the Riverfront Park Xeriscape Garden.

Cover of pollinators workshop brochureThe workshop is from 9 a.m.  to 3 p.m. at the North Central Regional Library, 16 N. Columbia St., Wenatchee.

The program will focus on integrated landscape and garden management practices that support  pollinators and other beneficial insects.

Most gardens contain far more good bugs, or beneficial insects, than pest insects, said coordinator Paula Dinius. Beneficial insects and other organisms that kill pests are called natural enemies. In any pest management program, it is important to encourage these natural enemies by avoiding pesticides that kill them, she said. Gardeners can also encourage beneficial insects by choosing plants that provide them with pollen, nectar, and shelter and by keeping ants out of pest-infested plants.

Learn to identify good bugs, both in their adult forms and immature (larval) stages. If pesticides are needed, learn to use non-chemical alternatives or less toxic pesticide products whenever possible.

The registration fee is $10. Register by mailing this form to Paula Dinius, Urban Horticulturist, WSU Chelan County Extension, 400 Washington St., Wenatchee, WA 98801.

The workshop is sponsored by WSU Chelan County Cooperative Extension and Chelan County PUD.


She’s a (solar) powerful force

Posted in Climate, Environment, Renewable energy, Solar on July 9th, 2014 by Susan – Be the first to comment
Photo of Ellen Lamiman with solar panels

Consultant Ellen Lamiman, owner of Energy Solutions in Winthrop, helped a group of Leavenworth women meet their goal of building a community solar farm on the roof of Icicle River Middle School.

PrintWant to build a solar system? Consultant Ellen Lamiman knows how to get ‘er done

When three Leavenworth women decided their city should have the first community solar system in Chelan County, they turned to the woman who had helped build the first community solar system in Washington state.

Consultant Ellen Lamiman of Winthrop put the Leavenworth project on a fast track and within five months, a 19-kilowatt system was up and running – way up, that is, on the roof of Icicle River Middle School. It was connected to Chelan County PUD’s electrical grid on June 27.

In 2010, Lamiman brought a 20-kilowatt system to the Okanogan County Electric Cooperative in Winthrop – the first community system to take advantage of generous incentives under the Washington Renewable Energy Cost Recovery Program. In 2006, she had served as a consultant for construction of the state’s first community solar farm in Ellensburg, a project that helped smooth the way for development and passage of the current state incentive program.

Lamiman said she had been contacted several times by various Leavenworth residents about setting up solar in town. But it wasn’t until members of Faith Lutheran Church called her that a project gelled this year. Members of the church’s Earth Stewardship Group, reading a book on climate change by Frances Moore Lappé, were motivated to help reduce the city’s carbon footprint. They called Lamiman.

Lamiman said Lisa Therrell, Mary Carol Nelson and Karen Strom “stuck with it” even though the paperwork, technical specifications and laws around community solar are “way, way out of the box for them.”

Anyone who’s met Lamiman knows she’s a force to be reckoned with, too.  When you’re a pioneer with a passion for what you’re doing – and Lamiman’s experience with solar stretches back 19 years – you’ve got to be.

photo of completed solar project at Icicle River Middle School

The solar system at Icicle River Middle School was connected to Chelan PUD’s electrical grid on June 27. Investors will be paid through a state incentive program and the school will receive funds through the PUD’s SNAP program.

You need to navigate the complicated state program and its associated pitfalls, including securities rules designed for bigger corporations, not small local projects. To ease the regulatory way for the Leavenworth endeavor, Lamiman struck upon the idea of using the church’s nonprofit status to apply for an exemption. The catch: Shares in the community solar project could only be advertised or sold to people who had had some involvement or relationship with the church or middle school.

Not a problem, said Lamiman, who learned long ago that “in all cases it really boils down to trust. Everyone thinks solar is a great idea but no one’s going to put up money if they don’t have that trust” in the people planning each project.

Lamiman has helped establish 35 or 40 systems around the state, some in the backyards of friends and acquaintances, others large and showy like the new one at Leavenworth. Her first installation was at the Okanogan Electric co-op where in 1995 she installed what she thinks may have been the first utility-owned, grid-tied, battery-based system in the country. “To this day that system runs and backs up all computers, the telephone system and emergency lights,” she said. “That launched my career.”

Prior to that she had coordinated Bonneville Power Administration’s conservation program for co-op members.

She runs her business, Energy Solutions, from her home. She hasn’t had any trouble finding takers for solar in her area, where power costs are more than double Chelan County PUD’s residential rate of 2.7 cents per kilowatt hour. Thirty-one co-op members signed on to the 2010 project within two weeks. So many people had wanted to invest, in fact, that a second project was built near Winthrop’s sewage treatment plant. That 23-kilowatt project, with 49 investors, began producing power in 2011.  And in 2012, a 35-kilowatt system was installed in Twisp in Okanogan County PUD’s territory with 38 investors.

There won’t be any more community solar under the current state program though, Lamiman said, unless the Legislature modifies and extends it.  Set to expire in 2020, that leaves only six years for investors to recover their costs and make a profit. The state program pays $1.08 per kilowatt hour, which is why Lamiman pushed hard to make a self-imposed deadline of July 1 for the Leavenworth system to be generating electricity. You’ve got to make hay – or kilowatts, that is – while the sun shines.

It’s only been in the last couple of years that solar has really taken off in the state, Lamiman noted. It’s been mostly smaller companies doing local work, but there’s a concern that that may change, with big corporations coming into Washington State and leasing solar systems to homeowners. While an increase in solar generation is beneficial, the change could hurt local installers and manufacturers, she said. She expects the Legislature to debate how to protect homeowners and businesses, and to discuss changes to the Renewable Energy Cost Recovery Program, in 2015.

“Solar has passed the stage of early adopters,” she said. “The price has dropped dramatically for modules and inverters so people’s interest can still be piqued by solar. People want it for a lot of reasons. There’s a large desire to participate in that future.”

Volunteers install Leavenworth’s first community solar project (Wenatchee World)

Making it pay while the sun shines (Chelan PUD “Connected” blog)

Chelan County PUD SNAP program (PUD website)

Cool savings on heat pumps

Posted in Appliances, Energy conservation, Heating and cooling on June 25th, 2014 by Susan – Be the first to comment

PrintChelan County PUD is offering rebates of $500 and $1,400 to customers who install high-efficiency air-source heat pumps.

Photo of chicken atop heat pump

Saving energy is no joke: Upgrade or convert to a high-efficiency heat pump and get a rebate of $500 or $1,400.

Customers who upgrade existing heat pumps are eligible for the $500 rebate. Heat pump upgrades include replacing an existing heat pump, replacing the heat pump portion of a ground source heat pump system, upgrading from zonal (wall and baseboard heaters) to an air-source heat pump, or adding a heat pump to a system with gas back-up.

Customers who convert from an electric forced-air furnace to a high-efficiency air-source heat pump are eligible for a $1,400 rebate.

In both cases, the new heat pumps must have a minimum 9.0 HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) and 14 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio).

HSPF is a measure of heating efficiency while SEER is a measure of cooling efficiency. In general, the higher the SEER, the higher efficiency — and cost. However, the energy savings can return the higher initial investment several times during the heat pump’s life. The most efficient heat pumps have SEERs of between 14 and 18.

Before making a purchase, ask your contractor whether the equipment you’re contemplating meets the rebate requirements. A list of licensed and bonded contractors serving Chelan County is available on the PUD website.

Eligible heat pumps can be found by searching the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute’s website and the ENERGY STAR website for Air Source Heat Pumps. Eligible heat pumps can be found by searching the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute’s website and the ENERGY STAR website for Air Source Heat Pump

Read a brief overview of the rebate program, then apply for the heat pump rebate here.

The Department of Energy offers a detailed explanation of heat pumps on its website.

Rebate increased on Tier 2 heat pump water heaters

Posted in Appliances, Energy conservation on June 4th, 2014 by Susan – Be the first to comment

PrintTotal savings of $1,250 available on this super-efficient new technology

The AirGenerate company, manufacturer of a Tier 2 heat pump water heater, has increased its rebate to $750. Chelan County PUD offers an additional $500 rebate on AirGenerate units, for a total reduction of $1,250.

Through October 31, AirGenerate is offering the rebate on models ATI66, ATI66DV and ATI80. The rebate can be redeemed through an online processing portal on Apply for Chelan PUD’s rebate here.

Photo of AirGenerate AirTapHeat pump water heaters offer significant savings, cutting water-heating energy consumption by 50 percent compared to a standard electric water heater. Tier 2 units require professional installation by a plumber. They are not available locally but can be ordered through General Pacific. Costs before rebates range from $1,999 to $2,599.

While in operation, heat pump water heaters make noise comparable to an electric fan or dishwasher. They release cool, dry air into the surrounding space.

Tier 1 models (such as the GE GeoSpring and Rheem EcoSense) are installed in unheated spaces, usually garages. They slightly reduce the temperature of the surrounding space and can be installed by the homeowner.

Tier 2 models are more efficient. They are installed in garages or interior spaces, and they require ducting if installed inside the home to exhaust cold air outside. Tier 2 models must be installed by a contractor. Contractors must have received AirGenerate training for the installation to qualify for AirGenerate’s rebate.

Click here to find a contractor.

Learn more about heat pump water heaters at