Soaking up the sun Panels help Windance tap into solar energy

June 11

Windance Sailboards has been a magnet for boardheads looking to harness the power of the wind for 20 years in Hood River. Now, the windsurfing retailer is set to harness the power of another one of nature’s gifts: the sun.

Windance owner Brian Carlstrom has had a solar electric system installed at his Highway 35 business that will generate approximately 40 percent of his building’s electrical power. Two large photovoltaic panels now sit on their own foundations on the south side of Windance. The panels are called “dual axes trackers,” and will track the sun across the sky from morning to night.

“The nice thing about the dual trackers is that, because they’re pointing directly at the sun, there’s no reflection,” said Carlstrom, who was concerned about reflection from solar panels shining on homes on the hillside across from Windance.

The panels have built-in electronic sensors that keep them within one degree of the sun, according to Tod LeFevre, owner of Common Energy, a local company that designed the Windance system. Le Fevre, whose business designs, builds and does consulting work for sustainable building and renewable energy systems, worked with Scott Sorensen Construction and Gorge Electric to install the panels and implement the Windance system, which is the first and largest commercial application of a solar energy system in the Gorge.

“It’s computerized so it has something of a brain,” LeFevre said of the tracking system. On overcast days, the panels will move to the brightest spot in the sky. When the sun sets in the evening, the panels automatically return to the angle recorded from that morning where they first locked onto the sun.

While the timing of Windance’s “going solar” has coincided with soaring gas prices and increasing calls for alternative energy solutions, Carlstrom has long been interested in sustainable energy. He remembers writing a paper in high school about the importance of finding alternative energy sources.

“That was in 1980, and things really haven’t gotten any better,” Carlstrom said. “We’re relying more and more

on fossil fuels. It’s only a matter of time before it crashes.” Carlstrom received tax credits and rebates for implementing the system which will cover about half the cost of installation. Still, Carlstrom said it will take years for the system to pay for itself in energy savings.

“But if you think about it, it’s really the patriotic thing to do,” he said. “You see all these huge SUVs driving around with their patriotic stickers. But they’re just maintaining our reliance on imported oil.” Carlstrom plans to implement other energy-saving measures at Windance, including using energy-efficient lights with timers and increasing the use of natural light in his building.

“These panels will supply 40 percent of our power, but we can knock off a huge percent from just cutting down on wastefulness,” Carlstrom said. The system is connected to an inverter which converts the solar energy into standard utility grade AC power. Any excess power not used by Windance is fed into the regional power grid and credited to the company.

LeFevre said it’s a common misconception that the Northwest does not have enough sunlight to make solar energy viable. “Germany and Japan are the leading countries in solar-powered electric generation,” LeFevre said. “They are at similar latitudes and actually receive less solar radiance than Hood River.”

Carlstrom said many people have asked him why he didn’t install a windmill. He researched that option, but decided against it since the wind tends to be gusty on the rise where Windance sits, and because of the noise that windmills generate.

“Solar energy is as clean as it gets,” Carlstrom said. “There’s no disadvantage to it.” Carlstrom says the move is “a good first step” and hopes the visible location of the trackers will inspire others to explore solar energy or other sustainable energy options.

LeFevre knows the technology and accessibility of sustainable energy is getting better all the time.

“It’s up to us to make the difference,” he said. “Brian gets a big pat on the back for making the move.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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