RePower Bainbridge lights up the Electric Avenue

Sam Rice rides over the Tidal Court energy usage diagram. - Courtesy Photo
Sam Rice rides over the Tidal Court energy usage diagram.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Neighbors on Tidal Court and Beck Avenue are giving passersby more than just a window to the activities in their home.

They decided to dedicate a whole street to it.

“We are excited they picked our neighborhood,” said Capstan neighbor Laurie Rice. “It’s great to see the enthusiasm of a lot of neighbors who have stepped forward to learn more, and with a lot of young people here it has peaked their interest and we should all learn something.”

The energy initiative launched its first two RePower neighborhoods last weekend with the newer Capstan community off High School Road and a group of older homes in the West Blakely neighborhood.

Over the next three months, participating homeowners will report their daily energy usage and a group of kids from the Boys & Girls Club will use spray paint to update a street diagram on a weekly basis to keep neighbors on-track to meet their community goal to lower energy usage.

The grant-funded RePower Bainbridge program launched in March and is saddling community members with options to save energy and lower costs over the course of a three-year challenge ending in July 2013. The program just started its “Electric Avenue” project to dive into neighborhoods and use some peer pressure to lower community usage.

Electric Avenue was inspired by a project in the United Kingdom called the Tidy Street Program, where neighbors used a similar public display to track community energy usage.

Franz said the crux of the idea is to get people working together and collaborating to achieve a common goal.

“By including youth and art, two important values in our community, we are making this fun,” said Franz. “Our hope is to bring people together around a common cause, helping to save energy and reducing costs, while making it fun. There is great value in building community and getting more and more people talking to their neighbors.”

Sarah Reid, program director of the Boys & Girls Club, said her kids will go out to the neighborhood once a week to add new data and touch-up the design on the biodegradable paint, which has a lifespan of about 90 days.

Reid said the process will be different for each kid, with the older kids grasping more of the numbers and concepts while the younger kids will get to enjoy the seemingly forbidden act of spray painting on the street.

“For us it will be part of the education process because we are devoting one summer camp session just to sustainability and so this will play right into that,” said Reid. “It’s important for our kids to know that they can be a part of the community and do something to get involved.”

The Sierra Club and island non-profit Positive Energy helped canvas the neighborhoods and generate buzz, which was kicked off with an ice cream social in both neighborhoods over the weekend. Over 79 people came out at the Capstan community, and over 50 in West Blakely. Both neighborhoods have a goal to get 75 percent of the neighborhood to complete the free home energy assessments and 35 percent to install energy efficiency upgrades to achieve a 15 percent energy savings. Both groups have until the beginning of September to do so.

The free home energy assessment is a 90-minute visual assessment with a RePower energy auditor who completes a walk-through of the property and provides feed-back on areas of energy improvement. About 1,000 islanders have either scheduled or received their free assessment since the program officially launched. The RePower team has a goal to complete 4,000 or roughly half of the island homes over the three-year program.

Franz hopes more homeowners will take advantage of the tier II comprehensive evaluation that provides homeowners with an energy score, and a comparison to the state average. The comprehensive assessment takes about four hours and includes a blower door test to reveal the quality of a home’s airtightness.

Energy advisors then provide a list of installation measures homeowners can take advantage of with a corresponding list to show the kilowatt hours that can be saved and the estimated dollar savings on an energy bill.

RePower partnered with Kitsap County on a grant to provide a $350 rebate on the comprehensive assessment that usually rings in between $450 to $650 depending on the size of the house. Franz hopes they can complete 1,000 comprehensive assessments during the challenge.

Market sustainability is a major initiative in the RePower challenge, Franz said, and she hopes the comprehensive test and corresponding energy score will continue to create market awareness and demand.

“When a potential home buyer begins their search and they come over from Seattle where the same energy assessment and score is provided, they are going to ask to see that score to compare homes,” said Franz. “The home performance score builds awareness and is becoming a demand in the home buying process. A home buyer will want a strong energy score, and if the seller doesn’t have one he is going to need to get one quickly.”

The RePower program will expand to Bremerton in the fall of this year.  Residents of the larger Kitsap County can take advantage of similar energy efficiency assessments and financing opportunities through RePower Kitsap.

In the meantime other neighborhoods are invited to work with RePower to create their own Electric Avenue.  Within the first two days Franz said two additional neighborhoods signed up.

For more information call 1.877.741.4340

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