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Islands just got a little greener; 7,000 receive energy conservation kits

Martha Warachowski and OPALCO General Manager Randy Cornelius with the new energy efficiency kit. - Colleen Smith Armstrong
Martha Warachowski and OPALCO General Manager Randy Cornelius with the new energy efficiency kit.
— image credit: Colleen Smith Armstrong

By Colleen Smith Armstrong
The Islands' Sounder

The San Juans just got a little greener.

OPALCO members recently received a surprise in the mail: an energy kit with five new-generation compact fluorescent lights, two low-flow shower heads, a kitchen and bathroom aerator, and energy saving tips.

The funding came from a monthly rebate OPALCO receives on its bill from Bonneville Power Administration, which requires the money be used for specific conservation efforts. Typically, OPALCO spends it on customer rebates for energy efficient appliances, commercial lighting retrofits, Energy Smart grocery store refrigerator upgrades, and other green incentives.

“It's basically to buy conservation,” said Martha Warachowski, energy efficiency coordinator. “Bonneville has found it costs a lot less to fund conservation than to build a new power plant.”

There was extra money left for projects at the end of this year, so the organization decided to distribute the kits. So far, 6,875 have been mailed. They were sent to customers with a local billing address to ensure the items were installed in San Juan County homes.

There are extras in the office, and customers who did not receive one can stop by. Members who can't use both low-flow showerheads are asked to drop them off at their local water utility for redistribution.

Communications specialist Suzanne Olson encourages members to install what is in the kit.

“Conservation efforts only work if you do them,” she said. “OPALCO is committed to giving members the information and tools they need to make good choices, conserve energy, and save money on their power power bills.”

Warachowski added, “Being a small utility, we're not required to run a conservation program, but we choose to.”

How much will you save?
The life of a compact fluorescent light bulb is 10,000 hours, which is 13 times longer than an incandescent bulb. Using OPALCO’s retail rate of $0.0758 per kWh, members will receive some of the following:

— Over the life of one 23-watt CFL, there is a savings of 770 kilowatt hours (kWh), which equates to $58 in the members’ pockets.

— Replacing five incandescent bulbs in a home with all five CFLs, members will save some 3,110 kWh and $236 over the life of the bulb.

— If 6,000 members install just one of the four 23-watt CFLs there would be a combined savings of 4,620,000 kWh over the life of the bulbs, which equates to $350,000 in savings.

— If 6,000 members install all five CFLs, there would be a co-op wide savings of 18,660,000 kWh and $1,414,440.

Low-flow showerheads and efficient aerators not only save water, but electricity that runs pumps and hot water heating. According to BPA, the average energy savings per device is 223 kWh per year. If 6,000 members installed both showerheads, the savings would equal 2,676,000 kWh and $220,840.

CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, and while it is fine to throw them away at county landfills, the best practice is to deposit them at the annual hazardous waste round-ups. If a CFL breaks in your home, visit this link for ways to clean up: www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=cfls.pr_cfls_mercury

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