Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO) is a member-owned, non-profit cooperative utility providing energy services to San Juan County since 1937. Delivered to the islands by way of submarine cables, our mostly hydro-electric power is generated by Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).
What is a co-op
Co-ops are independent, democratic, community-minded and run by members.
OPALCO distributes energy to 20 islands in the archipelago and employs approximately 50 people in the county. Co-op member-owners elect a seven-member Board of Directors, who set policy, rates and direction. Elections are held each year prior to our Annual Meeting. The OPALCO wholly-owned subsidiary, Rock Island Communications, provides broadband Internet services in San Juan County.
OPALCO contracts with PNGC Power for transmission, power sales and conservation measures. Governing documents are available in the Resource Library.
By the numbers snapshot
kilowatt hours (kWh) purchased
annual electric sales
Capital Credits Paid to Members
miles of power lines (87% underground)
Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO) serves our membership with safe, reliable, sustainable and cost effective essential utility services with a commitment to the utilization of renewable resources and carbon reduction.
Sustainability and the Environment
OPALCO is committed to the Salish Sea and our beautiful island environment. By promoting local power, encouraging conservation and energy savings for co-op members OPALCO encourages a healthy community now and for generations to come. OPALCO offers incentives, rebates, on-bill financing, local power opportunities, tips and more.
OPALCO's Fuel Mix
OPALCO is contracted with Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) as a full-requirement utility in order to secure the lowest cost, most reliable power for our member owners. Our power is mostly carbon-free hydropower delivered to the islands by way of submarine cables.
Energizing island life for over 85 years!
To improve electric system reliability and meet our OPALCO communication needs, grid-control began with the first fiber-optic network build out in 1999. This high-speed data communications backbone has been in operation since 2001 to connect our Co-op operations on three islands. This fiber-optic backbone lets OPALCO improve reliability, safety and energy efficiency by means of automated and remote control and monitoring of our system across the 20 islands we serve.
Today, the grid control backbone consists of more than 100 miles of fiber-optic lines that connect OPALCO substations and monitoring and communications devices. All Co-op members share the cost and the benefits of this backbone.
Through our wholly owned subsidiary, Rock Island Communications, members can now access fiber for high speed internet services where available.
OPALCO manages miles of transmission and distribution power cables as well as fiber-optic lines that form our grid communication infrastructure. Grid control describes how we manage the electric (and fiber) grid, as well as the two-way communications needed in this digital age. Modernization describes the work being done to give our grid intelligence and automation.
The importance of modernization include:
- Modernization lets us get more out of the existing grid that has historically been one-way energy transmission
- Lets us integrate local renewables as the grid incorporates two-way energy and information flow
- Gives users new ways to manage their energy usage, for example, more control over when they use energy
When the first strands of fiber were laid as part of improved infrastructure management back in 2001, many of the connected devices were only imagined, and today we are seeing them in place to help us manage energy use, control power switching, and more and more to help manage demand.
We all benefit from the grid as the modern technologies help keep operational costs down and provide monitoring and control of our far-flung utility system.This same communications grid provides the backbone for Internet services that OPALCO sells access to at a cost to Rock Island Communications, as well as other communications enterprises.
Who We Are
We have a talented and dynamic team of about 50 employees scattered throughout the county.