Conservation Districts were developed in response to the loss of soil and water resources during the Dust Bowl. Districts across the country focus on conserving soil and water for future generations. This includes water quantity and quality as well as soil quantity and quality. In order to maintain these resources it is important to address our energy use and sources. Many Northwest rivers have been dammed for hydroelectric power and/or flood control. In many cases these dams are a barrier to salmon spawning habitat, and the stocks of wild salmon have decreased dramatically over the last 70+ years (the Elwha Dam on the Olympic Peninsula documents a 95% decrease). OPALCO (our local energy co-operative) gets most of its power from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). The BPA generates most of its power from hydroelectric.

Worldwide there is an increasing demand for power, and much of that could come from renewable sources such as solar and wind power. We can work to be energy efficient (energy star appliances), conserving energy (through better insulation, better design, reducing demand) and by using wind power or solar for electricity, hot water heating, etc.

There are many solar PV systems around San Juan County. Orcas Island has a large privately owned system (30 KW) in Crow Valley built by Rainshadow Solar of Eastsound. West Sound Marina has a system on their dock,OPALCO has one at their office in Friday Harbor. There are also wind turbines and micro-hydro options offered by a few local companies. Lopez Community Land Trust (Lopez CLT) are active in creating a renewable energy cooperative and promoting the use of renewable energy. They conducted a county-wide survey (paid for in part by a grant through the US Department of Agriculture, Rural Business Enterprise Grant). There was a 14% response from Lopez, 9% from Orcas and 8% from San Juan. 50% of respondents were willing to invest in renewable energy while 14% currently invest. Affordability poses the biggest concern/problem. Of most interest was community education while fourth on the list was production of local power.

Benefits of energy conservation planning include:

Lower operating costs – more efficient heating and cooling systems that use less water, resulting in lower monthly utility bills.

Improve construction methods – new technologies to protect surface and groundwater and the use of recycled materials helps conserve natural resources.

Reduced maintenance – landscaping with native or drought-resistant plants and retaining rainwater on site for use.

Improve environmental quality – efficient use of renewables such as solar and wind to generate energy helps conserve natural resources.

Local Resources

Orcas Power and Light

Preparing for Climate Change Guidebook

Public Input on SJC Renewable Energy Needs

Rainshadow Solar

State Resources

Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency

Federal Resources

US Department of Energy-Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

US Environmental Protection Agency

Find Solar – Estimate cost, price and benefits, savings of solar energy power systems for home, house or building. Find solar incentives, rebates.

Green Tags – a renewable energy system, including the ability to offset greenhouse gas production.




© San Juan Islands Conservation District 2016