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OPALCO Supports Montessori School Solar Project

The Orcas Montessori School is creating a hands-on opportunity for renewable energy education in their classroom and for the benefit of the community. This summer, parent and community volunteers are re-roofing the school on North Beach Road and preparing to install a 9kW photovoltaic system that will generate much of the electricity needed to power the school, interconnected to OPALCO’s electrical grid for storage and back-up power. The system is being funded by a $50,000 grant from Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) that requires a $15,000 cash match. OPALCO has stepped up with a grant for $10,000 and the Orcas Montessori School is fundraising to bring another $10,000 to the project to complete the match and fund other much needed energy efficiency upgrades.

OPALCO Energy Services Specialist Elisa Howard presents a check for $10,000 to Teresa Chocano and Tina Whitman of the Orcas Montessori School
OPALCO Energy Services Specialist Elisa Howard presents a check for $10,000 to Teresa Chocano and Tina Whitman of the Orcas Montessori School

Montessori parent and board member Tina Whitman is leading the effort. “We see this as an excellent opportunity to educate our children and greatly improve the efficiency of our school, as well as provide specific teacher training in renewable energy for all of our island teachers,” said Whitman. “This will be a community demonstration project: our energy production will be shared online and our school curriculum will be enhanced with educational tools that BPA brings to the table. We greatly appreciate the support of OPALCO, Community Energy Challenge and private donors who have helped us make our solar energy and education project possible.”

“We are thrilled to support this community solar project,” said OPALCO Board member Winnie Adams, who also serves on the Member Owned Renewable Energy (MORE) committee. “This younger generation is the key to changing energy behaviors for the long-term sustainability of our island, and planetary, energy resources.” OPALCO’s Energy Efficiency & Conservation Education Grant was established by the Board in 2011 to “involve students in hands on experiences to teach energy efficiency and conservation.”

In addition to the new metal roof and solar panels, the Montessori School is also replacing an old diesel boiler with a super efficient Ductless Heat Pump through the Opportunity Council’s Community Energy Challenge. With the new electric heat source in place, the School will also be able to take advantage of OPALCO rebates for insulation and window replacement projects in the upstairs apartment later this year. With all of the energy efficiency upgrades, the total kilowatt hour savings will be substantial and these lower energy costs will help to offset the cost of the project.

OPALCO members will be faced with rising power costs as the cost of electricity in our region – and our demand for power as a co-op – grows. We will begin to see Tier 2 (market driven) rates from BPA as early as this fall – rates that are expected to be more than double our usual Tier 1 (mostly hydro-power) rates. According to the Northwest Power & Conservation Council, energy efficiency and conservation are the most cost effective ways to manage new load over the next 20 years and keep costs down.

While not everyone can manage to become a renewable energy generator – everyone can participate in OPALCO’s MORE program by purchasing blocks of green power. Sign up online at You can also help us to spot the best ideas for energy efficiency and conservation in the county. If you know of an educational energy efficiency and/or conservation project that we could support, please let us know by calling our Energy Services department at 376-3571.

OPALCO members can reduce energy waste, help manage our energy load and reduce energy spending in our homes and businesses by taking advantage of the many rebates offered through the Co-op’s Energy Services department ( The best way to get started is to schedule a Home Snapshot Energy Assessment and have a Building Performance Institute certified contractor identify the highest priorities for energy efficiency improvements in your home.

To learn more about the Orcas Montessori School solar project, go to Donations are accepted online to help the School compete their fundraising for this important community project.


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