When the power is down, whom should you turn to

Nature fired its warning shot across the bow at the beginning of Thanksgiving week this year. The Arctic winter front brought not only below freezing temperatures, but also strong winds. The wind had knocked out the power of many homes and businesses in Kitsap County. Given that Winter Solstice is still three weeks a month away, it is highly possible that we will experience more winter storms in the next few months. We want to make sure that everyone will have a safe and comfortable home. This is why we have decided to compile a list of power outage preparedness to help everyone be better prepared for the next big one.

Power Outage Preparedness:

$6 million dollar hot showers

Early 2009, Puget Sound Energy, the largest privately owned utility company in Washington State informed Bainbridge Island residents that their peak demand load had exceeded the carrying capacity of the existing three substations. These peak load events occurred during extreme cold weather mornings. Whether it is due to too many long hot showers or too many cups of latte. As a result, the utility was considering adding a new substation and new power transmission lines with a price tag of $6 million for the substation and $6 million for the transmission lines. Community responses ranged from supportive to indifferent with small groups of oppositions. This is not surprising as we live in a society that our culture is deeply entrenched in the belief that we must support our lifestyle at all costs.

However, as the economy turned south and anti-tax sentiment grew, we learned that peak load is a major headache for utilities. Why? Because utilities cannot count on customers quietly accepting rate increases. The response may be something along the lines of the recent defeat to increase taxes. This is why utilities are instead asking their customers to help them cut costs.

Peak load is an interesting issue that combines technical and social/behavioral challenges. One cannot approach this subject with just technical fixes or basic educational outreach solutions. A more reliable long-term solution must include changes in policy and regulation along with technical and social investments. Any measures short of this will be simply a band-aid.

Community Solar lowers barriers for communities to create a greener, more secure energy future

Would you like to see more solar energy systems in your community? Community Solar is a new way to go solar! If you are interested in solar energy but do not have good solar access, do not own real property, have financial barrier for the minimum investment, or do not have time to do the technical research, the new Community Solar legislation has lowered these barriers.

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