Solar panels were installed on Taylor Dock near Boulevard Park in summer 2018. // Photo by Harrison Amelang
By Ian Ferguson
Demand for solar panel installations are becoming increasingly common in Whatcom County, and the industry is there to match it. Bellingham businesses, homeowners and renters have been putting in work to build a more energy-efficient community, said Nick Hartrich, outreach manager with Puget Sound Energy.
According to Hartrich, the process started in 2016 after the city entered into the Georgetown University Energy Prize competition. The community that saved the most energy would receive a $5 million award to be used toward the development of green energy systems that decrease a city’s use of fossil fuels. By the end of the competition, Bellingham had tied for third place out of 49 areas involved.
During the competition, Hartrich urged the community to sign up for the PSE Green Energy Program, a program that allows PSE patrons to offset their carbon emissions by investing their bill toward greener energy sources.
PSE set a time period for the community and pledged that they would donate $100 toward a solar installation for every person who signed up. Five hundred sign-ups later, the community and PSE raised $50,000 toward a solar installation in Bellingham.
The solar panels were installed on Taylor Dock at Boulevard Park this summer, delivered in an unorthodox fashion.
At Cornwall Beach on June 27, rowboats and bicycles were loaded with an array of solar modules to be transported to Taylor Dock. Carriers were escorted by an entourage of community members excited to celebrate the community’s green energy efforts.
“I don’t know if that could have happened anywhere else on earth,” Hartrich said.
The panels were made by Itek Energy, a local solar panel manufacturer. With their facility located on Cornwell Avenue, just steps away from Cornwall Beach, the community was able to achieve an installation that generated zero carbon emissions.
The panels were put up by local installation company, Ecotech Solar. Ty Chang, who specializes in technical sales and design at Ecotech, said the company is proud of the work done at Taylor Dock.
Hartrich said the location was chosen because of its high traffic and good sun exposure. Both Hartrich and Chang agreed that the public visibility of these panels would add to the progression of renewable energy in Bellingham. The more people see and hear about solar energy, the more appeal around it will increase, Chang said.
From his experiences with Ecotech, Chang said the industry is already changing. The cost of solar panels has been consistently decreasing in the past years, and as a result, solar power is no longer a wealthy person’s commodity.
“We’re working with teachers, firefighters — take your pick, its a huge range of folks, ” Chang said.