Solar Tour kicks off Energy Awareness Month

Helmut Sassenfeld manages his Tani Creek Farm with a 29-kilowat solar array. The 92 panels create enough energy daily to run the farm and the residence with power left to return to the public grid. The farm is part of the solar tour. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Helmut Sassenfeld manages his Tani Creek Farm with a 29-kilowat solar array. The 92 panels create enough energy daily to run the farm and the residence with power left to return to the public grid. The farm is part of the solar tour.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo


Staff Writer

The Bainbridge Island Community Energy Task Force has designated October as Energy Awareness Month, and for good reason.

As the mercury drops, energy use begins to climb, and last winter’s record low temperatures pushed the load limits on Puget Sound Energy’s transformers serving the island. As a result, PSE has begun formulating a plan to increase capacity, including building a fourth substation.

Tammy and Joe Deets, founders of the nonprofit Community Energy Solutions, have been instrumental in the formation of CETF, which is a collaboration of volunteer community members, local organizations, PSE staff and elected officials.

“There are some people on the island who would like to see more effort and funding targeted for energy use education, conservation programs and the development of renewable energy sources rather than increasing capacity of current systems,” Joe Deets said.

The ad-hoc group has been meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursdays since its inception in May. The meetings, held at Eagle Harbor Congregational Church, 105 Winslow Way, are open to the public.

Reducing energy consumption is one of the goals of the task force, Joe Deets said. PSE records show that its average customer consumes about 11,800 kw per year. The average Bainbridge Island customer consumes 19,000 kw a year. Determining the reasons for that difference, and finding ways to close the gap, are of high interest to the group.

PSE has supported the community-driven conservation efforts, and representatives regularly attend the task force meetings, Tammy Deets said.

PSE spokesperson Rebekah Anderson said PSE supports the group’s efforts with energy expertise.

“You can think of us as a fan and advisor to their efforts, but they are completely independent,” she said.

According to its website about an Aug. 25 community meeting, PSE will assess future energy needs during and after implementation of conservation efforts. For now, a plan to build a new 25 megavolt (MV) substation on Bainbridge in spring of 2011 – at a cost of approximately $6 million – is still on the table.

Meanwhile, the task force recently submitted a 20-page proposal to Washington State University Extension Energy Program in Olympia, which is the designee to distribute federal funds – targeted toward energy efficiency – from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The proposal seeks $3,615,828 to implement an extensive energy efficiency program and would utilize $4,940,117 in matching funds, which was a requirement set by WSU for proposals. Some of those funds would come from PSE programs already in the works.

Part of the ambitious program’s aim is to offer 4,000 home energy assessments, providing customized education for nearly half the homes on Bainbridge Island, particularly those built before 1980 which may not be to current energy efficiency standards.

According to the WSU Energy Efficiency Pilot program manager, funding decision announcements on the determination of grants was anticipated by Sept. 30, but the complexity of the 14 submitted proposals has required more time for evaluation.

While the CETF waits (somewhat) patiently for the announcement, it has turned its attention to launching Energy Awareness Month, which will be kicked off Saturday with the fourth annual Kitsap County Solar Tour: “All Things Solar and Green.” The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sakai Elementary School.

The event, which is presented by CES, opens with messages from State Rep. Christine Rolfes; Joe Deets; Todd Erler, a Sakai teacher and champion of the Sakai Solar Energy Project; a Sakai student giving a demonstration of the solar energy kiosk; Tyler O’Farrall, Net Metering and Green Power program manager at PSE; and Jaco ten Hove, a task force member.

Following the opening ceremonies, participants can talk with energy experts at the school or embark on a self-guided tour of the mostly residential properties that demonstrate the use of solar power and/or innovative and efficient use of energy. Of the 22 sites, 12 are on Bainbridge Island.

Highlights of the tour are photovoltaic and solar hot water systems, rainwater catchment and passive solar designs, green roofs, organic gardening, ground source heat pumps, and an electric car.

At Hope House, a live onsite energy audit will demonstrate where and how energy waste occurs. Another stop is Rolling Bay Land Co.’s new eco-office, which features a passive solar design, living roof, guest room and composting toilet – all in 200-square feet.

For more information about the Solar Tour, including descriptions of the 22 properties, go to

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