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Energy Champion Winnie Adams

Winnie AdamsWinnie Adams came to Waldron Island in the late 1970s to spend time with her brother and his children. Her parents were already living on Orcas Island, which made for a natural transition. She has served our island community as a public-school teacher, environmental educator and a yoga instructor – maybe most well remembered for her Mamasana classes for new moms and babies.  She is active in local writing and farm-food circles and served on the OPALCO Board of Directors.

Currently, Winnie and her husband, Bob, spend about half the year living off the grid (powered by solar)

waldron solar
Winnie’s solar powered house on Waldron

and gardening on Waldron and the rest of their time on Orcas. They live a low cash lifestyle: growing their own food, trading with neighbors and keeping the thermostat low. About being an islander:

“It means you are dependent on interdependence,” said Winnie. “We must be engaged community members and helpful to our neighbors. It also means slowing down, being flexible and entertaining yourself.”

For their Orcas home, Doug Poole conducted a Home Snapshot Energy Assessment ( and created a master plan to maximize efficiency. Each year since, they do another project on the list which has included new windows, a ductless heat pump, LED light bulbs and more – working with OPALCO for rebates and incentives. While their Orcas home in the trees isn’t a good location for solar, they partially offset their energy use through participation in the Decatur Community Solar Project.

Winnie’s Ductless Heat Pump on Orcas

Winnie was encouraged by her friend and former General Manager, Doug Bechtel, to check out the OPALCO board. He emphasized that you didn’t need to be an engineer but that they were looking for a diverse set of big picture thinkers – people just like Winnie who have the health of the island community on their minds. Winnie was thoughtful in her approach to joining the OPALCO board, attending many meetings before running. She was impressed by the smart, considerate, conscientious board and she decided she wanted to contribute. The first time she ran (on a very full ballot), she lost but was later appointed when a board member retired midterm. She served the Co-op for eight years.

During her time on the OPALCO board, some of her major accomplishments include creating an active MORE (member owned renewable energy) committee – supporting exponential growth of local solar generators and laying the foundation for our current shift to renewable power, and hosting “tea talks” to give members an opportunity to speak directly with the Board.  She helped to shepherd in the acquisition of Rock Island Communications, joining PNGC (a regional generating cooperative) and a significant shift in the OPALCO team when about 25% of the staff turned over due to retirements in a quick two-year period.

“I’m so impressed with the dedication, talent and professionalism of our OPALCO staff and management team!” said Winnie. “The next generation of leaders are here and they have what we need to build a healthy energy future.”

Winnie continues to be one of OPALCO’s biggest cheerleaders and truly demonstrates what it means to live The Electric Life. Read more from Winnie and her time on the board here:

Orcas view
Orcas view
Garden on Waldron


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