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Quick Fact: Bailer Hill Microgrid

bailerhillNote: This project is currently in permitting and will be offered to members when permits are complete, hopefully in 2024.

The Bailer Hill Microgrid project on San Juan Island is a future Community Solar and Battery Storage site. Community Solar is a local solution to offset expensive mainland power and offer renewable power to co-op members who do not have the ability to install rooftop solar. OPALCO can use the solar and battery storage energy to offer a limited power supply for emergencies and to create increased redundancy.

Once fully permitted, members will be able to purchase solar units to offset a portion of their electric bill. Members get a return on investment while switching their electricity to clean, local power.

Why this location? It’s close to the to the circuit that feeds the town of Friday Harbor, Peace Island Medical Center, the SJI Fire Department and the Friday Harbor Airport to offer back up power in case of emergencies. It’s an open, sunny location and the property was available.

This will be OPALCO’s second microgrid project. The first, Decatur Island Microgrid, has been producing solar and generating credits for member investors since 2018. OPALCO’s long-range plan includes building multiple microgrids to provide a small supply of lower energy resilience to keep essential services running when our mainland power supply is disrupted. These projects are funded by member subscriptions and grants.

Stats about the project:

  • Located on 19 acres on San Juan Island at Douglas Road and Bailer Hill Road
  • 1 MW of Battery Storage (on average roughly powers 650 homes for 4 hours)
  • Currently OPALCO has Oak Knoll Farm sheep grazing on it. Entire parcel will remain open to livestock grazing throughout the duration of the project
  • 2.7 MW Solar Array – 5260 panels
  • Array will produce 3,800 MWh annually – 5% of our annual output for our whole system
  • $1M of the project is allocated to towards OPALCO’s low income energy assistance program through grant funding
  • Current status: staging contractors and materials, applying for conditional use permit, received National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) approval

Fire Safety

The Bailer Hill battery storage system is designed for automated and unstaffed operation. Due to this fact, fire safety, monitoring, and containment is of the utmost importance. Each battery system is designed to minimize the risk of combustion and, in the unlikely event of a fire, minimize the external impact of a safety event. OPALCO will be always implement high safety standards for batteries and their installations. This project will meet multiple industry standards, comply with regulations designed to prevent the spread of fire and have fire prevention protocols. Once the project is commissioned, OPALCO will host a training for San Juan Fire and Rescue to effectively respond in the unlikely event of a fire.

Why local energy generation? Why now? 

The region is mandated by legislation to get fossil fuels out of our energy diet. During this transition, rolling blackouts and other gaps in power supply are forecast as new clean energy resources are developed, as well as new transmission lines to bring the power to consumers like us. Learn more: Why Local Renewable Projects? Mainland Power Demand Will Soon Exceed Supply.

Site Preparation

OPALCO partnered with the San Juan Islands Conservation District to develop a farm plan for the site. The solar panels are made in the USA and are recyclable. The farm plan demonstrates that the best practices OPALCO plans to follow will result in improved soil health over the 25-year project. Infrastructure improvements that OPALCO will make to the land, including vehicle access, fencing, power supply and water, will improve conditions for current and future farming uses.

Once the project is permitted, detailed information on purchasing solar units will be available online at

Some visual renderings of the project:

bailerhill bailerhill bailerhill

























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