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Between a rock and a yard place

Posted in Water conservation on September 11th, 2014 by Susan – 1 Comment

Lightly logoMysterious rock art adds to interest in the Riverfront Park Xeriscape Garden

It’s not completely out of the question to find a rabbit in the Riverfront Park Xeriscape Garden. But an elephant? And a jellyfish?

Photo of rock painting - elephant

The elephant

Master Gardener Terry Anderson has spied all three — painted on rocks. An anonymous artist placed the paintings in the garden, he said, to the delight of volunteer gardeners and people passing by.

A discovery
Anderson, who oversees the garden, discovered the rabbit about three weeks ago. “About a week later I was down doing something in the garden, it was a Sunday morning bright and early, and three women rolled up on skates. They were taking photos of the rabbit, and I said, ‘You found the rabbit!,” Anderson recalled. Turns out, he said, that they knew the artist, and they pointed to

Photo of rock art - jellyfish

The jellyfish

the location of two more brightly painted rocks that Anderson hadn’t noticed.

The artist is the daughter of one of the women, who said the secretive placement is related to a community suicide prevention project. And that’s all she wanted to reveal. “She said, ‘Is that OK?’ and I said, ‘Yes, of course, and let your daughter know they’re much appreciated,’ ” Anderson said.

The garden has been vandalized in the past, with people pulling up, tromping on or stealing plant-marker stakes. But so far vandals have left the rocks alone.

Photo of rock art - rabbit

…And the rabbit, hiding under a Pink Cloud

Autumn joy
The garden itself is a work of art this time of year. “The cooler weather has brought on a new flourish, with lots of things in bloom,” including a beautiful coppery rose plant called Autumn Joy, Anderson said. “It’s the most gratifying place I’ve ever volunteered to do something. My co-workers, the Master Gardeners, are just blown away by how many people stop by” to thank them and to share that they’ve incorporated Xeriscape into their own landscapes.

The garden is located along the Apple Capital Loop Trail, near the Nile Saunders Steam Train (map). It’s maintained by WSU Extension Chelan-Douglas County Master Gardeners as a showcase for low-water-use plants and grasses. Chelan County PUD promotes Xeriscape as a water conservation tool and is a garden co-sponsor.

View the garden’s many varieties and learn more about Xeriscape on the PUD website.

Have you hugged your heat pump today?

Posted in Appliances, Energy conservation, Heating and cooling on August 27th, 2014 by Susan – 4 Comments

Lightly logoEnergy-efficient ductless heat pumps are winning the hearts and minds of customers

If they didn’t sit so high up on the wall you might try to hug them. People just love-love-love their ductless heat pumps.

These little workhorses — popular in Japan and Europe for years — are gaining ground in the Northwest, offering quiet, efficient cooling and heating. What’s not to love?

Photo of Glen Ferrier with ductless heat pump

Glen Ferrier says his family’s comfort “has gone way up” since installing an energy-efficient ductless heat pump in their Leavenworth home.

Since Chelan County PUD began its ductless heat pump program in 2012, about 35 customers have installed units in their homes and taken advantage of rebates of $750 per household. Among them are Glen and Jacqueline Ferrier of Leavenworth, who wanted to supplement the baseboard heat in their 35-year-old home and add air conditioning.

“Our comfort level has gone way up,” said Glen, a retired Forest Service silviculturist. “I just love this thing.  I can’t say enough about it. I come home when it’s hot, turn it on and it’s cool before you know it.”

The Ferriers had no air conditioning before installing their ductless heat pump. Their electric bills are slightly higher in the summer now, Glen said, “but who’s to complain? Our electricity here is ridiculously cheap.” Winter bills have gone down. And because the Ferriers don’t need to use their wood stove as a backup nearly as often now, they’re saving money on firewood, Glen said.

The home is 1,600 square feet on two levels. The ductless heat pump provides heating and cooling for the kitchen, living room and down a hallway to three bedrooms. Fans installed prior to the heat pump help circulate the heated and cooled air.

PUD rebates are open to customers with electric furnaces, baseboard, wall or radiant heat living in site-built, single-family homes up to a four-plex. Manufactured homes with furnaces are eligible, but manufactured homes using baseboard or wall heat are excluded. Customers are eligible for one rebate per household.

Details are on the PUD website or by visiting

Evaluating the benefits of smart-grid technology for business

Posted in Energy conservation on August 20th, 2014 by Susan – Comments Off

Smart metering network graphic

A study in 2015 will help determine whether smart-grid technology would benefit Chelan County PUD business customers by providing tools to manage and monitor power use and conserve.

Lightly logoThe analysis will focus on the PUD’s “Top 500” industrial and commercial customers, many of whom have asked for these advanced services.

John Stoll, Customer Utilities managing director, said the PUD has built a solid foundation of software, systems and automated equipment over two decades to support a smart grid and the benefits that the technology can offer.

“Our plan is to take prudent, pragmatic steps toward smart grid technology and to adding programs that make the most of its benefits,” Stoll said. “We want to help customers with technology to use energy efficiently as well as help the District control costs.”

The plan is to use technology such as the District’s fiber network as a base for adding other systems to provide more information for decisions about reliability, power quality and customer services. The analysis planned for 2015 would include a look at updates for the District’s customer billing software and at how best to manage the increased data generated by advanced meters.

A consultant will be hired this fall to help determine requirements.

If the analysis shows customers would benefit, two-way meters would be installed in 2016 for the PUD’s “Top 500” business customers, which represent about 40 percent of the electric load.

About one third of the PUD’s residential customers have automated meters, including 2,000 just installed in Cashmere during upgrades made after the District purchased the city electric system. PUD water customers have had automated meters since 2006.

Chelan PUD could make its grid smarter (Wenatchee World)

Passive-design home takes shape at Lake Chelan

Posted in Construction, Energy conservation, Heating and cooling, Sustainability on August 15th, 2014 by Susan – Comments Off

Lightly logoSeattle architect Brett Holverstott has updated his blog with photos showing the progress of the passive design house being built on Lake Chelan.

Mike Schramm of Green Gables Construction

Builder Mike Schramm takes a break during construction of the passive-design home on Lake Chelan.

The photos document some of the extra measures being taken to tightly seal the home using extra caulking, tape and dense-pack cellulose insulation. The south-facing home on the lake’s north shore will incorporate 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. The home will not need a furnace. A passive home can consume 85 percent less heating/cooling energy than a typical home.

Brothers Mike and Mark Schramm of Green Gables Construction, Chelan, are the builders. The home is owned by Rick and Jacque Hyler of Renton, who will move to it permanently after retirement.

View updates on Holverstott’s blog from July 24 and July 4. Read the original story about Holverstott and the passive design home here.

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.