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FRIDAY HARBOR, WA-Several organizations are the beneficiaries of a $37,000 grant to install solar panels.

The Bonneville Environmental Foundation has helped add four new solar panels at Windermere Real Estate Building in Eastsound, WA, the Lopez (Island) Community Center, the Westsound Marina and the OPALCO office. This combination of utility owned and privately owned sites will contribute an estimated 5,200 kilowatt hours of electricity a year into the electricity grid, producing energy that is natural and pollution-free while helping the islands served by OPALCO to become more self sufficient.

“The regional interest in solar energy has quickened considerably since BEF opened its doors in 1999,” says Angus Duncan, president of BEF. “OPALCO members have been among the first to show a high level of interest in power that is non-polluting.”

“We are serious about developing renewable resources in San Juan County,” adds Doug Bechtel, OPALCO’s general manager.

There are 500 participants in the OPALCO Green Power program. They purchase more than one million kWh of environmentally friendly power each year. The average U.S. household uses between 700 and 1,000 kWh of electricity per month. Because green power costs a little more than traditional power to produce, OPALCO places a portion of the premium that is charged for this program in a “renewables” fund to assist in developing new projects such as the recent solar installations.

In addition to serving as a partner in four community solar projects with utilities in Oregon and Washington, BEF is funding watershed projects that use solar power to pump water for cattle and irrigation while protecting streams.

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