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Blue Sky grant aids YMCA solar panel project

Blue Sky grant aids YMCA solar panel project

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A 134 kilowatt solar array installed in May with a $125,000 grant from Pacific Power's Blue Sky program at the Mid-Willamette Family YMCA is already saving money for the nonprofit organization, lowering energy costs by more than 10% percent per month.

According to YMCA Executive Director Chris Reese, the nonprofit organization has saved nearly $5,000 in energy costs, the equivalent of the annual energy consumption of more than six U.S. homes.

“We have lots of square feet of roof, which I see as opportunity to add more solar panels,” Reese said. “We would love to be able to install panels when we develop the old warehouse into a teen center and Young Life campus.”

Reese said that eventually he would like to see the majority of all YMCA buildings and athletic fields utilize renewable energy.

“I would love for us to be a positive example for Albany,” Reese said.

YMCA member Peter Greenberg — a solar advocate who has installed numerous solar power systems around the world — suggested the project. He wrote a grant application through the Blue Sky program, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Blue Sky allows Pacific Power customers to purchase blocks of renewable energy resources.

He installed the 368 solar panels in less than two weeks. YMCA staff can monitor their output in real time via computer.

Blue Sky funds are used to support nonprofits, schools and civic groups or fish habitat restoration projects.

There are more than 135,000 participants in six states.

Over the last 20 years, the program has supported 9.2 million megawatt-hours of renewable energy, enough to power 938,000 homes for one year, as well as 110 community-based energy projects for local organizations and 90 fish habitat restoration projects on hundreds of miles of rivers.

Celeste Krueger, regional business manager for Pacific Power, said it is exciting to see a project of this magnitude at the YMCA, which has a positive impact on so many mid-valley families.

“This is a great example of how our carbon footprint can be reduced,” Krueger said. “And Albany residents are good supporters of the Blue Sky program. We have 3,900 participants here, which is really good.”

Almost 15% of Pacific Power’s Albany customers and 23% of Corvallis customers participate in the Blue Sky program. Multnomah County has the most participants at 26%.

The Blue Sky program has also supported projects at the Boys & Girls Club of Albany, the Linn County Fair & Expo Center, Memorial Middle School and the Linn-Benton Housing Authority.

In Benton County, grant recipients have included Oregon State University, the Corvallis Municipal Airport, the Beit Am Jewish Community, Coho Ecovillage, Corvallis Fire Department and Benton County.

Krueger said a 200 kilowatt Blue Sky block of energy can be purchased for $1.95 per month.

In addition to the financial savings, the YMCA has also reduced carbon emissions by almost 38,000 liters, enough to fill 135 bathtubs, in just 67 days of operation.

Blue Sky energy is derived from a mixture of wind, biomass, solar and geothermal production.

The Moda Center, home of the Portland Trail Blazers, matches 100% of its electricity use through Blue Sky renewable energy credits, as does the Oregon Convention Center and Facebook’s Prineville data centers.

Blue Sky funds have also been used to help bring three new renewable power systems online in recent years:

• Blue Basin came online in 2016. It is a 4-megawatt, 3,420-panel solar project in Klamath Falls.

• Burnt River Wind came online in 2017. It is a 50-megawatt, 25-turbine wind project in Huntington.

• Orchard Wind will come online in 2020. It is a 40-megawatt, 16-turbine wind project in Umatilla County.

To learn more about the Blue Sky program, visit www.joinbluesky.com.

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