Every day you see blue sky over Smith River, the Del Norte Triplicate is saving a considerable sum on the electricity bill at its printing plant.
The newspaper recently installed 36 solar panels behind the plant at 200 Timber Blvd., and since they were activated, average daily electricity costs have shrunk from $38 to $23, said Triplicate Publisher Michele Postal.
“I was betting on this experiment to work, and now it appears it will be very successful,” Postal said. “Now we can share our model, what it costs, what’s involved and who the critical players are with other Pacific Power customers in the community. We can help them — businesses and individuals — make educated decisions about using solar energy.”
The newspaper is sharing information about the project, including the daily and cumulative amounts of power generated, at triplicate.com/solar.
The recent installation of the panels on three large poles was funded by a $60,000 Blue Sky grant from Pacific Power, one of three awards in this region made by the utility this year. The others are at a food co-op in Coos Bay, Ore., and at Rogue Valley International Airport.
“These projects in Coos Bay, Medford and Smith River are examples of our customers’ deep commitment to building a renewable energy future,” said Pat Reiten, president and CEO of Pacific Power. “Not only will these facilities supply renewable energy, but they are helping teach a new generation about renewable energy.”
In Smith River, the panels were mounted on three large poles behind the plant that prints the Triplicate, the Curry Coastal Pilot and commercial jobs for other customers.
Since they were activated April 19, they have generated an average of 48.6 kilowatt hours, with a one day-high of 69.15 kilowatt hours May 30. The poles they are mounted on can withstand winds of up to 90 mph.
The installation work was done by Clarke Moore of Alternative Energy Systems, Trinidad Electric, Andy Karnitz of Blue Skies Solar and Crescent Electric.
Postal also noted the efforts of Monte Mendenhall, Pacific Power’s regional community manager who encouraged her to apply for the Blue Sky grant.
Moore, who shepherded the project, recently gave a presentation about it to members of the Crescent City Rotary Club.
“This was my third project with Pacific Power,” Clarke said, adding, “for us to thrive and prosper, it takes partnerships.”
In this particular partnership, “there is a real heroine,” Clarke said, referring to Postal. “Michele stuck in there with this.”
Moore was credited with being “our local authority on all things solar,” by Postal.
“Local jobs, green energy, savings on our monthly bill and a model to share ... this project provided us all that,” Postal said. “I am thrilled every time I pull into our plant and see those poles standing there. I’m also thrilled to see my bill go down! I can’t thank Monte (Mendenhall) and the Blue Sky team enough for encouraging me to go for it.”
U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman visited the plant during the solar panel installation and called it “a perfect example of how private industry can benefit from using green energy sources like solar panels to reduce the cost of operations while easing its impact on the environment. The Del Norte Triplicate’s Smith River printing plant is leading the way for other businesses and organizations in the region that want the benefits of alternative energy sources.”
About 46,300 Pacific Power customers currently participate in the Blue Sky program across California, Oregon and Washington and California.
“One of the reasons the Blue Sky option is so popular is that customers can see what they are getting,” said Pat Egan, vice president of customer and community affairs for Pacific Power. “In addition to supporting the renewable energy industry, they are helping fund on-the-ground, working renewable projects in their own communities.”
For more information about the program, go to www.pacificpower.net/bluesky.