Whidbey Island is a quiet and quaint little island off the coast of Washington near Seattle. Originally the towns on the island served as housing for naval and fishing industry families. Now it’s home to many families who enjoy a little extra solitude from the hustle and bustle of mainland life. There’s something special about the residents–they are committed to their communities and work together to help sustain the island’s natural beauty.
An example is tied to the story of Greenbank Farm. Starting in 1906, Greenbank Farm was home to herds of cattle and became the largest loganberry farm in the United States. When Greenbank Farm closed and went up for sale, residents voted to increase property tax rates to collectively purchase the farm as public property to prevent it from being sold to housing developers. Today, Greenbank Farm is a well-known tourist attraction, promoting local wines, foods, and crafts as well as the home of the famous Whidbey Island Pie Company.
Whidbey Island Solar Energy
So it’s not surprising that some of the open lands on Greenbank Farm are now used to bring solar energy to Whidbey Island. In 2010, private investors pooled funds with a grant from Green Power Challenge and money from the Port of Coupeville to install a solar panel farm on an acre of pasture near the Greenbank Farm buildings. The first installation of two rows produced about 25.1 kilowatt hours of electricity–about enough to power four homes. In 2012, another two rows were added to double the production. Over time, more were installed until they reached a production capacity of 152 kilowatts.
Up until 2020, the Whidbey Island solar energy farm was owned by independent investment companies, most recently Cascade Energy. In 2020, Port of Coupeville’s Executive Director, Chris Michalopoulos, announced that Cascade Energy’s agreement with Puget Sound Energy was ending, and they planned to transfer the solar farm to Greenbank Farm at the end of the year. Since the solar farm was erected, investors estimate the panels have produced over 520 megawatts of electricity for the local grid–equivalent to powering 45 houses over the nine years. More importantly, they estimate the panels kept about 235 tons of greenhouse gasses from being added to the atmosphere.
The gift of the solar panels to Greenbank Farm will help this community icon in a few ways. First, Greenbank Farm plans to power one of their buildings solely from the solar energy produced by the panels. Second, excess energy can be sold back to Puget Sound Energy for credit towards their remaining electricity expenses.
See more about the community’s movement to build a solar farm in this video produced by Puget Sound Energy:
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The Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition’s mission is to enhance the livability of the Rogue Valley. We promote and educate on alternate fuels, seek to decrease dependency on petroleum, and promote clean air and water in the Rogue Valley via alternate fuels. Contact us today for more information!