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Huxley alumna heads solar project

Solar panels online
Rose Lathrop, the Green Building and Smart Growth Program Manager at Sustainable Connections, and Western senior David Jackman, the Energy Program Assistant, stand next to the solar panels installed atop the Sustainable Connections building on Ellis Street on Wednesday, January 6. The project they are working on will donate panels to the Bellingham Food Bank later this year. // Photo by Ian Koppe

Sustainable Connections, a Bellingham-based non-profit organization promoting sustainable economic development, has teamed up with three local solar energy providers to create an initiative that will donate solar panels to the Bellingham Food Bank.

Rose Lathrop, who graduated from Huxley College of the Environment in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in urban planning and environmental policy, is heading up the project, dubbed Solarize Whatcom.

The initiative aims to reduce operating costs for the Bellingham Food Bank while also providing educational workshops about solar power for the public. For each new solar energy project contracted through the Solarize Whatcom initiative, Sustainable Connections and its partners will donate one solar panel to the Bellingham Food Bank.

Whatcom County leads Washington state in solar panels per capita, making it a suitable location for programs like Solarize Whatcom, Lathrop said.

Bellingham’s largest solar panel installers, Western Solar Inc and Ecotech Energy Systems, LLC, agreed to provide a reduced price on new installations for the project, David Jackman, energy program assistant at Sustainable Connections said.

Solar panel manufacturer Itek Energy has also been a part of the project. “They are working really well together,” Jackman said.  

Jackman is a senior at Western, graduating this spring out of the sustainable business program.

“I just jumped right into it as an intern at Sustainable Connections,” he said.  

In April, he was hired to a permanent position.  Classwork at Western had prepared him well to take on a full-time job at Sustainable Connections, Jackman said.

The initial response to the program has been good. “Quite a few people have signed up for each of the workshops,” Lathrop said.

Lathrop hopes Sustainable Connections will get at least 20 contracts signed, which would result in 20 panels donated to the Food Bank.

“We are always looking to get more green when it’s feasible,” said Mike Cohen, executive director of the Bellingham Food Bank.

The Food Bank facility was built in 2008 and earned a Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, Cohen said.

It did not install solar panels during its initial construction, but Sustainable Connection’s engineers determined the facility can support a solar system and would be a good group to benefit from the promotional campaign, Cohen said.

The Solarize Whatcom campaign will run through April 2016. Three workshops will be held starting on January 26th at the Sustainable Connections office at 1701 Ellis St., Suite 221.

Visit the Solarize Whatcom website at westernsolarinc.com/solarize-whatcom to register or call Rose Lathrop at 360.647.7093 x107 for more information.

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