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Solar arrays celebrated at Greenbank Farm

Langley resident Paul Mathews and Clinton resident Enid Braun talk solar energy during an event commemorating the new arrays installed at the Greenbank Farm.  - Nathan Whalen / Whidbey News-Times
Langley resident Paul Mathews and Clinton resident Enid Braun talk solar energy during an event commemorating the new arrays installed at the Greenbank Farm.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen / Whidbey News-Times

A new day is dawning on the Greenbank Farm.

Thanks to the help of investors including interested individuals, the Port of Coupeville and Puget Sound Energy, a solar energy project is up and running at the publicly owned farm. Dozens of people ventured to the farm Wednesday morning to celebrate the completion of the first part of the project.

Two rows of panels are located in a pasture between the Greenbank Farm fields and the buildings. The panels will produce 25.1 kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power approximately four homes. The panels were installed by workers from Whidbey Sun and Wind and it was hooked up to the power grid in late June.

“It’s a good first step,” said Charles Stillman, a Seattle resident who invested in the project operated by Island Community Solar, LLC.

He and his wife, Susan, arrived from Seattle for the celebration that included songs from Vern and Karl Olsen and pies provided by Whidbey Pies Cafe.

“This is now farming the sun and harvesting the sun,” Puget Sound Energy spokesman Andy Wappler said during the event at what was once the largest loganberry farm in the United States. He added that if growers during the Greenbank Farm’s heyday had the opportunity to generate power using solar panels, they likely would have.

Wappler also plugged Puget Sound Energy’s Snake River Wind Project near Pomeroy. Work is under way to build 149 wind turbines that will produce 343 megawatts of renewable energy. That project is scheduled to be complete in 2012.

Planning the Greenbank Farm solar energy project started about 15 months ago and included a significant fundraising campaign to pay for installation.

John Hastings, head of Island Community Solar, said approximately $250,000 has been raised from investors. In addition, Puget Sound Energy provided $25,000 in funding through its Green Power Challenge and the Port of Coupeville provided the land and infrastructure for the panels.

Hastings also thanked the numerous groups and people involved in the project. He mentioned the Legislature, which approved a bill that provides a financial incentive for solar power production. He also lauded the Island County Council of Governments, a board comprised of the county’s elected officials, which doled out the Puget Sound grant dollars and put a seal of approval on the project.

Currently two long solar arrays are generating power at the farm with room for more to be installed.

“I’m very excited to see them here,” Clinton resident Enid Braun said.

Langley resident Paul Mathews, who is involved with Island Community Solar, hopes to see the project occupy an acre of land at the Greenbank Farm, which would satisfy most of the power needs for the publicly owned farm.

Puget Sound Energy’s alternative energy efforts will eventually be felt by ratepayers. The company has a rate proposal pending with the state that would increase residential electricity rates by 8.1 percent beginning in May.

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