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Sun power on the snowy mountain

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar, Sustainability on August 14th, 2014 by Susan – Comments Off

Lightly logoStevens Pass Mountain Resort is producing power for Chelan PUD’s solar program

When you think of skiing or snowboarding you think snow, right? But at Stevens Pass Mountain Resort they’re thinking sun. As in solar, and solar power.

The resort installed a small solar system at the top of its Skyline Chairlift that should generate electricity most of the year, said John Meriwether, manager of Environmental Sustainability.

Photo of solar system at Stevens pass Moutain Resort

Stevens Pass Mountain Resort has added a solar system along the Skyline Chairlift and expects to churn out sun power up to 10 months of the year.

“In summertime we’re pretty high and exposed to the sun, really for eight, nine, 10 months out of the year,” he said. The eight-panel, 1.9-watt system is on a fixed pole and won’t track with the sun, which in hindsight might have been a better option. “Something I learned (recently) is that we probably should have put it on something that tilted, because January-February-March it’s in the shade. If it tilted toward snow we could possibly have gotten some reflective light.”

The installation was delayed by a year when the Tumwater, Wash. engineering firm hired for the project declared bankruptcy. A Seattle contractor was called in to take over, and the installation was connected to Chelan PUD’s grid on July 10. The resort is now part of the PUD’s customer-based SNAP program.

A $5,000 grant from the National Ski Area Association helped Stevens Pass pay for the project. More solar is planned. “Chairlifts have lift stations that need maintenance and upgrading, and once they come around in our maintenance rotation, we’ll plug a solar component into that,” Meriwether said. Prime south-facing locations include the Double Diamond chairlift and the spot where the  Jupiter and Tyemill lifts come together.

Stevens Pass has won several regional and national environmental honors, including the National Ski Area Association’s Golden Eagle Award for environmental excellence in 2012. The resort has an aggressive sustainability program, Meriwether said, that takes in recycling, composting and energy and water conservation. A facilities audit conducted a few years ago resulted in a road map for the resort to make efficiency improvements “and we’ve been clicking away at those projects,” he said. Upgrades made at its three lodges include insulating doors, adding occupancy sensors for lighting, sealing elevator shafts against heat loss and installing low-flow toilets.

Resort staff also helped bring an electric vehicle charging station to Stevens Pass. A former staff member on that project, Ross Freeman, is now the sustainability manager for the city of Mercer Island, where a “solarize” campaign is under way with Northwest SEED.

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)

Making it pay while the sun shines

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar on June 3rd, 2014 by Susan – Comments Off


Photo of Icicle River Middle School

The blue roof over Icicle River Middle School will get a little bluer this summer with the installation of 96 solar panels.

Community solar project hopes to be up and running this month

Sponsors of a project to produce solar power at Icicle River Middle School in Leavenworth have surpassed their initial goal and will be placing 96 modules on the school’s roof this summer.

Photos of students

The Leavenworth middle school is the site of Chelan County’s first community solar project.

The Earth Stewardship Group of Faith Lutheran Church, the project sponsor, received commitments from 27 investors for a total of $120,000. Fifteen donors are contributing an additional $9,495, mostly to cover the cost of  insurance.

When they announced the project in April, sponsors set a goal of 72 solar panels but said they hoped to raise enough support to erect 96.

The 205-watt solar modules are made in Marysville, Wash., by Silicon Energy. Ellen Lamiman, project consultant, said that “very conservatively,” the 19,680 installed watts should generate about 22,630 kilowatt hours a year. “It is possible that the system could average as much as 25,000 kWh a year,” she said in an email.

Lamiman has successfully developed three other community solar projects in Washington.

Payments of $1.08 per kilowatt hour generated are available to investors through the state’s Renewable Energy System Cost Recovery Program. The program is designed to spur manufacturing of solar modules and inverters  in Washington and to help make renewable energy systems affordable to the public. The payments come from state utility taxes — in this case, those collected by Chelan PUD — and must be made to a local entity.

The school’s solar installation will be the first community solar farm in Chelan County to take advantage of the state program, which expires in June 2020. At that time, the Cascade School District will assume ownership of the installation.

Leavenworth Electric will install the solar system during the second and third weeks of June.

The solar system will be monitored and the energy production data will update on a public website every 15 minutes. Students at the middle school will develop a web site for the project and post more details and what they learn about solar energy, as well as a tutorial on how to use the interactive monitoring site. When the web sites are activated the Internet addresses will be posted here.

The Cascade School District will receive payments for the KWh produced through Chelan County PUD’s SNAP program.

More information about the project is available on the organizers’ website. Earth Stewardship Group officials can be contacted at

Solar gets a lift at WVC

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar on June 3rd, 2014 by Susan – Comments Off

PrintStudents and staff repair damaged solar equipment

A solar “tracker” in need of repair got some attention from students and staff at Wenatchee Valley College last week and is doing again what it’s supposed to do — moving with the sun as the day progresses to maximize solar generation.

Photo of WVC students and instructor who repaired solar equipment

Students spearheaded repair of damaged solar equipment at Wenatchee Valley College and staff provided the necessary support. From left: Cody Chrismer, instructor Greg Jourdan, Mike Barham, Tony Meyer and Patrick Shane.

Students from the college’s Refrigeration Club, joined by instructor Greg Jourdan, maintenance director Greg Randall and other staff, worked on the project. They fabricated new metal rails, repaired damaged struts, welded parts, and replaced copper tubing that carries refrigerant. The tubing had been vandalized, possibly by someone trying to steal it, Jourdan said.

The work is a bit out of the ordinary for refrigeration students, but served as a good learning tool and could pave the way for future instruction in solar system maintenance, Jourdan said.

The repair was the culminating project for graduating student Mike Barham, president of the Refrigeration Club. Barham and other club members are working with college officials to explore the possibility of a scholarship for refrigeration students using revenues from solar generation.

Photo of WVC solar systemThe college has two solar sites. A 10-kilowatt array rests on the roof of the Eller-Fox Building along Fifth Street and has been virtually maintenance-free since it was installed in 2002. The repaired, eight-panel solar tracker is new to WVC, which inherited it in a land swap with the Wenatchee School District last year. The tracker is located behind the former WestSide High School off Ninth Street.

The college is paid for its solar generation through Chelan County PUD’s SNAP program.

Record solar production for SNAP

Posted in Renewable energy, Solar, Wind on May 14th, 2014 by Susan – Comments Off

PrintCustomers contributed $22,681 to Chelan PUD’s Sustainable Natural Alternative Power (SNAP) program in the past year, resulting in payments of 10 cents per kilowatt hour to the schools, nonprofit agencies and individuals who are generating local solar, wind and small-hydro power.

Pie chart SNAP generationRenewable energy is being generated at 62 sites around the county including 24 schools, the Performing Arts Center and Federal Building in Wenatchee, and Wenatchee Valley College. The college now has two solar sites: the Eller-Fox Science Building on Fifth Street and the former WestSide High School site on Ninth Street, which came under college ownership as part of a land swap last year.

Eight new private solar producers signed on to SNAP in the past 12 months, helping push the program to a production record of 218,709 kilowatt hours of energy. The previous record, set in 2013, was 175,142 kilowatt hours.

The eight new producers, all with fixed solar systems, added 31 kW of capacity. They are:

  • Peter Burgoon, 1137 Lower Sunnyslope Road, Wenatchee
  • Robert Ogburn, 4267 April Drive, Wenatchee
  • Stephen and Diane Gundersen, 11190 Mundun Canyon Road, Peshastin
  • Jim and Lynn Brown, 1225 Rue Jolie, Wenatchee
  • Brian Luther, 8895 Eagle Creek Road, Leavenworth
  • Juan and Susan Mendoza, 52 Mike Keys Road, Manson
  • Brian Koblenz, 10740 Fox Road, Leavenworth
  • Robert and Sharon Beebe, 117 N. Garfield, Wenatchee

Applications are pending from Stevens Pass Ski Resort and from a private producer on Jumpoff Road in Wenatchee.

Solar is growing in Chelan County largely due to generous state-sponsored incentives of up to 54 cents per kilowatt hour. Producers using solar modules and inverters manufactured in Washington are eligible for the highest payouts available through the state’s renewable incentive program. Taking advantage of the state incentives, in addition to SNAP, brings a faster return on investment.

The state payments come from the state’s utility tax fund; SNAP payments come from PUD customers interested in renewable energy. Customers can support local renewable energy by contributing to SNAP on their monthly electric bills. 

View a complete listing of our SNAP producers. View the 2014 SNAP Annual Report.