‘Common sense alternatives to a new power substation’

Bainbridge City Councilwoman Hilary Franz and Community Energy Solution’s Tammy and Joe Deets sent in a column (below) arguing that more energy conservation and use of renewable energy could eliminate the need for a planned substation on Bainbridge Island.

Common sense alternatives to a new power substation
By Hilary Franz, Tammy Deets and Joe Deets

For much of this year, we have seen that reducing our energy consumption is our first line of defense against rising energy prices, while also recognizing it as critical for increasing our nation’s energy security, fostering economic prosperity, and combating global warming.  This last week, at Puget Sound Energy’s open house on Oct. 22 at the Bainbridge Commons, our island was given one more reason to implement energy conservation and renewable energy at our homes, offices, and schools — to avoid the construction of another substation.

PSE is bound by the electrical needs of our community and plans on beginning the construction of a third substation as early as 2010.  Our island’s power demand is not going down:  it is going up. This substation will no doubt be placed at a location on the island where its presence will be less than welcomed.  To most people, an electrical transformer is a visual affront:  with its caged collection of steel beams, insulators and wires to power sections of our Island community.  For Bainbridge Island, such infrastructure stands in stark contrast from the trees that fill much of our Island and from what we can do as an alternative.

Efficiency and conservation must be at the top of the list of solutions to our energy challenges. The most efficient and environmentally responsible fossil fuel-based power plant is the one that you never need to build. Before we assume that the adding of another substation is the only solution to our needs, we should more wisely use what we already have. It is not only prudent to do so in these uncertain economic times, it is also common sense.

Closely following energy efficiency and conservation is the local generation of renewable energy. It is immensely empowering for people and communities to own and control a productive renewable energy system.  We do not have to look far to find these opportunities being implemented. Sometimes it is just across the street. During the 2008 Kitsap County Solar Tour, islanders opened their doors to show how they were empowered by a combination of energy efficiency and renewable energy on site. Their very comfortable homes cost far less to maintain because they needed far less energy from the utility.

In addition to these solar homes, an exciting community solar energy project, “Solar for Sakai” is underway with the first phase scheduled to be completed in November. This project is a collaboration between the school district, Sakai Intermediate School teachers, kids and parents, solar friends and leaders in our community, and Community Energy Solutions. A 4 kilowatt photovoltaic system will be installed on the roof of Sakai to benefit the school and enhance the students’ education opportunities in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We should be proud of our community in taking these bold steps towards energy independence.

PSE has expressed interest in working with our community to reduce our energy needs and put off the need for another substation. We should take them up on this and ask them to work with us as we develop a community-based program to address our energy challenges. Such program should include a combination of energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy solutions.  Our choice is to continue to do things the same way as in the last century or to embrace the 21st century and adapt to using our precious natural resources in a smarter way.

Tammy Deets is president of Community Energy Solutions, cenergysolutions.org.

Hilary Franz is a  Bainbridge city councilwoman and member of the state Climate Action Team Inner Working Group.

Joe Deets is executive director of Community Energy Solutions.