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More solar energy workshops set

The City’s Solarize Mercer Island campaign held another successful workshop Tuesday evening, after the first free learning session drew crowds of 65 people. Thirty were registered as of the Reporter deadline on Monday. Forty five registered for free site assessments.

Ric Power, who lives just north of Homestead Field, counts himself among the pioneering bunch. Since May of last year, the installation, which faces due South, has generated more than 9,400 Kilowatt hours (kWh). His house has consumed just five kWh of that energy generated, returning more than 6,000 kWh to the grid.

“When I was looking at this [last year], a couple of family members said ‘it’s overcast all the time,’” remembers Power of the common misconception that cloudy skies mean solar panels aren’t feasible in the Pacific Northwest. “But I started to look into it. Germany has the same weather as we do. Overcast skies just means you need more panels, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”

The goal, says Power, who owned for 25 years Island Graphic Design, is to create a zero carbon footprint and it’s far from the first eco-friendly project he’s invested in. He hopes to make his residence as environmentally independent as possible. Vegetable patches and gardens are nourished by a water retention system with a spout that feeds into a cistern.

He says solar panels may be gaining in popularity. Already, a house across the street and another on 79th Avenue S.E. and 37th St. have installations of their own.

“For a couple of years, the city has had its head in the sand on these kinds of issues,” says Powers. “When you’re issuing building permits for [downtown] and not requiring people to put in some sort of solar panel to mitigate the usage, that’s just socially irresponsible...But when I talk to people about this, they’re extremely interested.

Solarize Mercer Island is a sponsored initiative with support from the regional non-profit Northwest SEED, the Washington Department of Commerce and Puget Sound Energy. The city hopes to bring at least 30 new solar arrays to the Island. By recruiting Islanders in groups, the city hopes to connect them with discounted deals on bulk installations, between 10 and 15 percent off regular pricing.

The next workshop is at 6 p.m., August 12 at the Community and Events Center. Find more at mercergov.org.

 

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