Port Townsend's efforts to generate, share renewable energy earn state 'Solar City of the Year' honor
Jeff Randall, sales representative for Power Trip Energy, talks to Tudi Haasl, center, and Deb Wiese in front of the new solar array atop their home on 29th Street in Port Townsend. It is the 75th grid-tied solar voltaic system to go up in Jefferson County, helping Port Townsend to receive the honor of "Washington Solar City of the Year" from the Northwest Solar Center. -- Photo by Jeff Chew/Peninsula Daily News
By Jeff Chew
Peninsula Daily News
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Besides the 30 percent federal tax credit that will save them $10,000 on the more than $30,000 system, the 29th Street residents paid nothing to Puget Sound Energy for September, the first month the system operated atop the roof of their 1,400- square-foot home.
"The tax break was really motivational for us," Haasl said.
"It's also exciting just to be helping the environment," Wiese added.
Another thrill for Haasl and Wiese is watching their power meter run backward, delivering excess power back to the grid.
That's where the fun comes in.
Theirs is the 75th solar system in Jefferson County, a number that earned a special honor for Port Townsend, home of the heaviest concentration of solar arrays.
'Solar City of the Year'
The Northwest Solar Center, a Washington State University and Shoreline Community College project that helps Northwest utilities to implement community-based power production incentive programs for local solar power producers, last month honored Port Townsend as "Washington Solar City of the Year."
Mike Nelson, Northwest Solar Center director, said Port Townsend was honored for "having done more solar electric systems than any city in the state, per capita."
Other award winners at the Northwest Solar Summit included Jefferson County power provider PSE for "Best Large Solar Utility," and the Washington Public Utility District Association, of which Jefferson County Public Utility District is a member, for "Best Solar Trade Association."
Jefferson County's 75 systems compare to about 100 systems for all of Seattle, Nelson said, putting the number into perspective.
50 systems in Clallam
In neighboring Clallam County, about 50 systems have been installed, said Jeff Randall, Power Trip Energy sales and marketing representative.
Clallam County is slowly catching up with neighboring Jefferson County, Nelson said.
Most of the systems in the county have been installed in the sunny Sequim-Dungeness Valley -- called the "blue hole" by pilots because of its number of sunny days -- where the Olympic Mountains rain shadow begins to dissipate cloud cover.
The rain shadow extends through Port Townsend and the Quimper Peninsula and northeast to Whidbey and the San Juan Islands.
Nelson said those who invest in solar systems are usually environmentally conscious.
"You look up on the roof and you see a solar array," he said. "Then you look in the driveway and see a Prius."
The center works with legislators and local government and industry officials to promote programs that expand the renewable technologies market.
Port Townsend 'special'
"What makes Port Townsend so special is that people here are not only vocal activists, they also become the change they want to see," said Andy Cochrane, president of Power Trip Energy.
"If we want to live in a solar-powered community, we have to start by living in solar-powered houses.
"Here in Port Townsend, more of us are living in solar-powered houses than in any other community in the state."
Randall represented Port Townsend-based Power Trip Energy Corp. at the 12th annual Northwest Solar Summit in Olympia in late October to accept the award on behalf of the citizens of Port Townsend.
The award was the first of its kind, and it came as a surprise, Randall said.
With 75 systems in Jefferson County, that means there is one array for every 294 people, Randall said.
With 14,818 PSE power meters in the county, that means one-half percent of all PSE's metered customers in Jefferson County have grid-tied photovoltaic systems, or one out of every 200 PSE customers, Randall figures.
By comparison, he said, there are 51 systems in the city of Bellingham and 1,113 statewide.
PSE has 504 systems on its power grid with Jefferson County, amounting to 15 percent of those systems.
Randall said Power Trip Energy has installed 168 systems since it was founded in 2002, totaling 634 kilowatts of power.
"In 2009 we installed 40 systems totaling 224 kilowatts," Randal said of the company that employs six people.
"It was the best year we've ever had."
Port Townsend-Jefferson County Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at email@example.com.
Last modified: November 08. 2009 10:02PM