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Friends and enemies in the garden

Posted in Environment, Water conservation on July 10th, 2014 by Susan – Comments Off

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 – 1 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)

April brings Earth Day celebrations

Posted in Climate, Energy conservation, Environment, Recycling, Renewable energy, Sustainability, Water conservation on April 4th, 2014 by Susan – Comments Off

PrintApril is the month for celebrating the earth and our continued stewardship of its resources. Earth Day fairs in Chelan and Leavenworth offer opportunities for everyone, while Entiat’s celebration focuses on its schoolchildren.

Here’s a rundown of the festivities:

Saturday, April 19, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Riverwalk Park, Chelan: Chelan is celebrating its 25th anniversary of hosting its Earth Day Fair. Find displays about composting, green building, recycling, renewable energy, land conservation, energy conservation, electric vehicles and emergency preparedness. There’s plenty to do and see, including a garden center, flea market, arts and crafts for kids, food booths, music and entertainment. The event is sponsored by the Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce, KOZI Radio and Chelan County PUD.

Poster of Leavenworth Earth Day FairSunday, April 27, noon to 4 p.m., Lions Club Park, Leavenworth: The Wenatchee River Institute is sponsoring Leavenworth’s sixth annual Earth Day Fair.  The fair will feature live music, prepared food, a Farmers Market Showcase, health information, displays, hands-on activities and activities for the whole family. Sponsors are Stevens Pass, KOHO Radio, Link Transit and Chelan County PUD. If it rains, the fair will take place at Osborn Elementary School, 225 Central Avenue, Leavenworth. Phone (509) 548-6881 for more fair information.

On Tuesday, April 15,  Entiat Elementary School students will be treated to displays and activities focusing on conservation and sustainability. The 11th annual event is sponsored by the Entiat Valley Community Services group. Chelan PUD will be among the presenters. Contact May Segle for information at (509) 784-7117 or


No furnace? This home won’t need one

Posted in Appliances, Construction, Energy conservation, Environment, Heating and cooling, Sustainability on March 5th, 2014 by Susan – Comments Off

PrintSeattle architect Brett Holverstott is putting the finishing touches on the design of a passive house to be built on the shores of Lake Chelan this year.

The home will be located on the north shore of the lake and will face south, which Holverstott says helps make its an ideal candidate for passive design. A passive house incorporates super-insulated floors, walls, and roof; air-tight enclosure; high performance windows primarily oriented to the south; and a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) which uses the outgoing air to precondition the incoming air.

Sketch of passive-design home

The architect’s sketch of the sustainable, passive house to be built on the north shore of Lake Chelan this summer.

“The combination of these devices, effectively used, produces a house that requires no furnace and almost no ductwork, has fantastic indoor air quality, no annoying drafts, and can be heated with a light bulb,” Holverstott states on his website, A passive home can consume 85 percent less heating/cooling energy than a typical home.

Construction is scheduled to start in late May or June. Brothers Mike and Mark Schramm of Green Gables Construction, Chelan, are the builders.

The home will be 1,150 square feet. The basement/foundation will be buried in the earth. The home will feature a large shed roof that lifts toward the lake view. An entry court between the house and garage will serve as a view deck, providing “a moment of pause” before entering the home, Holverstott said.

The exterior walls will be a foot thick and of double-wall construction, with a 2′ x 6′ wall with structural plywood sheathing on the exterior side, and a 2′ x 4′ wall with the drywall on the interior side. “The resulting cavity can hold a lot of insulation,” Holverstott noted.

Some of the decisions about building materials are still being made, but Holverstott said he would like to use Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified lumber and plywood. The insulation in the walls will be densely packed cellulose, a byproduct of newsprint, which contributes to air-tightness. The insulation in the roof cavity will be blown-in fiberglass, because of its lighter weight.

The home is the retirement dream of  Rick and Jacque Hyler of Renton. Rick just retired from Boeing and Jacque is a part-time tutor. It will be their permanent home, not a second home, Holverstott said.

He said the home will be a demonstration of affordable green design.

“The cost of the design is targeting $200,000 including all ‘soft costs’ such as utility hook-up fees, permit fees and architect fees,” he said. “This is a difficult target to reach in today’s dollars, and we have had to reduce the square footage of the house from 1,500 to 1,150.

“The super-insulation and air-tightness of the house are not significant up-charges, on the order of less than 10 percent. But passive-house grade windows are easily two to three times the cost of traditional windows. We have done a lot of research to find the best deal on these windows, which are provided by local and international manufacturers. High ceilings also add to the construction complexity and cost.”

The owners have opted to save some money by bargain hunting and installing interior finishes themselves. But they’re committed to acquiring top-of-the-line energy efficient appliances to contribute to energy savings. They’ll take advantage of Chelan PUD rebates where possible. 

Holverstott established Cambrian Design last year after working on science laboratories, commercial interiors, single and multi-family housing and even a jazz venue. This is his first independent venture.

You can learn more about this project on the Cambrian Design blog.

Like something out of ‘Star Wars’

Posted in Environment, Renewable energy, Wind on October 1st, 2013 by Susan – Comments Off

Wind turbines seem out of place but are pumping out the power

Driving to the Oregon Coast recently, my husband and I traveled through or near three of Washington’s wind farms. I have to agree with his assessment that those massive metal towers are just a little bit scary.

A science fiction buff, he’s reminded of the mammoth, four-legged war machines that stalked Luke and Leia in one of the early Star Wars films. Those tall white towers seem alien to me, too: Am I on Highway 97 or another planet?

Photo of Windy Flats wind towers

Wind towers loom over the rolling farm landscape near Goldendale, Wash.

Other-worldly or not, wind farms are pumping out the power. The three we passed have a combined capacity of 873 megawatts. (As a comparison, the capacity of Chelan PUD’s Rock Island and Lake Chelan dams together is 688 megawatts; Rocky Reach Dam’s capacity is 1,300 megawatts. )

According to the American Wind Energy Association, Washington ranks eighth in the nation for number of utility-scale wind turbines (1,609) and installed wind capacity (2,808 megawatts). There are 26 wind projects in the state.

These are the ones we passed:

  • The Kittitas Valley Wind Farm, located along Highway 97 northwest of Ellensburg. Forty-eight turbines extend over the valley near the Blewett Pass/Ellensburg intersection. They’re situated on 6,000 acres of the Anderson Mountain range. The project is owned by Horizon Wind/EDP Renewables.
  • Puget Sound Energy’s Wild Horse wind farm is located 16 miles east of Ellensburg. Wild Horse has 149 turbines on 10,000 acres. These are the turbines you see when you attend a concert at The Gorge Amphitheater or drive to or from Moses Lake. PSE operates an informative visitor center and conducts tours. The site includes a huge solar farm. Power is used by PSE customers.
  • Windy Point/Windy Flats, near Goldendale, is a 90-square-mile wind farm covering 30 miles along the Columbia River ridgeline near the Oregon border. It’s operated by the Cannon Power Group based in San Diego. The power is sold into California.

My husband asked me a bunch of questions I couldn’t answer at the time but can now:

Q. Why are the rotor blades going so slow? Can they still produce power? Do they ever reach speeds like a plane’s propellor?
A. While the turbines have different manufacturers and can be expected to behave somewhat differently, PSE says the turbines at Wild Horse can produce electricity at wind speeds as low as 9 mph. The Wild Horse turbines reach their peak production at 31 mph and shut down at constant wind speeds above 56 mph.

Q. Are they as big as they seem?
A. Yep. According to PSE, the total height of each tower with blades fully extended is 351 feet; total weight is approximately 223 tons. The towers are 221 feet high and weigh 104 tons. Each turbine blade is 129 feet long and weighs over 7 tons. (More Wild Horse Fast Facts.)

Q. Can you look inside them?
A. The visitors in hardhats shown in the Wild Horse video did.

Q. Why don’t we have big wind projects in Chelan County?
A. There isn’t enough wind. And we have plenty of clean, renewable hydropower. But Chelan County PUD does own a small share of Phase 1 of the Nine Canyon Wind Project near Kennewick.

Wind projects come with environmental drawbacks as well as benefits. They create jobs during construction but only a handful for the long-term. And in the spring there can be too much of a good thing — too much water and wind create renewable power gridlock that requires one or the other to cut back or shut down.

Wind power shut down to make way for hydro (Oregon Public Broadcasting)
At Kittitas Valley project, turbines don’t always turn (Ellensburg Record)
How Stuff Works: Do wind turbines kill birds?
Detailed wind resource information and maps for Washington state (National Renewable Energy Lab)