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  • Dean Enell

"Solarizing" the Island

Last week 172 solar panels were installed at the South Whidbey Elementary School. This historic event was initiated last year when WCA members Dean Enell and Linda Irvine got wind of grants from the Washington State Dept. of Commerce. They presented the opportunity to the South Whidbey School district superintendent Jo Moccia who gave an emphatic thumbs up. Dean and Linda then worked with the school to apply for the grant which provides for 2/3 funding for applications using made-in-Washington solar components.

After installation of a new roof surface this summer, the panels and associated equipment followed. The ideally-positioned south facing roof surface now supports 172 solar panels that can produce 108,470 kilowatt-hours of energy per year and results in the offsetting of over 130,000 lbs. of CO2 per year--the equivalent emissions of 6,500 gallons of gas.

The cost? In addition to the ⅔ grant allotment, a net metering arrangement with PSE allows the school district to use their energy production to offset their electrical usage, resulting in a payback of their investment expenses in 6 years.

And that’s just the start. This year, WCA has instigated and been involved in 2 of 5 additional applications for solar installation grants for 2023 and beyond from the State Dept. of Commerce. Others are promoted by Bob Gunn with Seinergy, a Langley-based energy company. These differ from last years school project in that they provide for both solar panels and associated battery backup. This arrangement is targeted to provide a resilience center for the local community in times of a power outage. It also will help balance load requirements on our electrical grid as we transition to more alternate energy sources.

These awarded grants are for feasibility studies to determine if project goals will be achieved with panels and battery components. The 5 destined for 2024 are:

All these solar installations will address one of WCA's 4 goals, GET OFF Fossil Fuels, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the cause of the climate change we face here.


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