Saturday's dark, cloud-covered skies actually provided a great setting for Clallam County Public Utility District's third annual Solar Tour of 16 properties in Sequim and Port Angeles that use solar energy.
"Even during the dark, miserable days, the meter is running," said Ann Sextro who, along with her husband, Bob, hosted visitors Saturday at their property on Kitchen-Dick Road.
Clallam County Public Utility District hosted the six-hour, self-guided tour of solar-energy using buildings in Sequim and Port Angeles in conjunction with the 13th annual National Solar Tour sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society.
Twelve property owners hosted visitors to explain the costs and benefits of using solar energy. Four other properties, including Sequim High School, were available for drive-by viewing.
"We use virtually all the solar energy we create, maybe we'll send some back into the energy grid," Ann Sextro said.
Since the couple installed 16 of the 200-watt solar energy panels atop two existing sheds in July, they have produced 1,271 kilowatt-hours of energy, Sextro said to about a dozen attentive listeners Saturday afternoon.
That 400 kilowatt-hours a month figure could drop to about 200 during the winter, she said.
"It's hard to say what energy source is powering what but if the solar energy doesn't produce enough, we get power from the grid," Sextro said.
The Sextros' property includes a well, barn, home and greenhouse. The couple also has an electric generator as a backup power source.
Sextro said their power bills have gone down about $50 a month to $85 since installing the panels. They also will get paid once a year for the power they have put back into the energy grid at a rate of 17 cents a kilowatt-hour, Sextro said.
Power Trip Energy Corp. of Port Townsend installed the 16 solar panels and connected them to the energy grid. They cost about $25,000 initially, which was reduced to about $20,000 with federal tax credits and Clallam PUD rebates, Sextro said.
The panels don't operate efficiently in temperatures above 90 degrees, so Sequim actually is a better solar energy environment than Phoenix, she said. Bob Sextro said the key is the panels must be south-facing and free of obstructions such as buildings or trees. The panels were producing 2,500 watts on that cloudy Saturday and can produce 3,000 watts on sunny days, he said.
Clallam County PUD offers cash rebates for solar energy panels that are connected to the energy grid. Tax credits and cash production incentives also are available from Washington state and the federal government. Clallam County is one of the leading solar energy counties in the state with more than 40 systems connected to the energy grid.
Saturday's tour began at the "House on Wheels" located at Clallam PUD's Carlsborg Service Center. Clallam PUD staff was available to discuss tour sites, solar energy and rebates, renewable energy, weatherization and energy efficiency measures. People also could pick up fliers on solar energy incentives and "building green," rebate coupons and Energy Star brochures as well as a list of the properties on the tour and a map.
Sequim homes on the tour were Stuart and Pat McRobbie, 942 E. Oak St.; Hugh and Erika Starks, 2385 Palo Alto Road; the Zeff residence, 767 Stampede Drive; the Shaefer residence, 51 Riverview Drive; Arndt and Susan Lorenzen, 283 Bell Bottom Road; Natalie Spiegel, 542 E. Bluff Drive; and Ann and Bob Sextro, 702 Kitchen-Dick Road.
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