Solar project a win-win for Parks and Rec


News staff writer

July 1, 2006

The Hood River Valley Aquatic Center has a variety of summer activities planned for its waters. From the Hood River Ospreys and the Hood River Masters swim team practices to kayak roll sessions, a kids’ triathlon, open swimming and birthday parties, the pool will see plenty of use during the hot summer months.

Of course, there is nothing new about that; the pool has been a cooling-off hot spot since it was constructed in 1948.

What is new, however, is pool users will soon be sunbathing and swimming in waters heated by what will be the largest solar hot water array in the Northwest. The existing natural gas heating system will, once the project is completed in a couple of weeks, be the secondary heating source for the pool from about March to September each year. When the sun is out this summer, the 281,000 gallon pool will be heated to its 83-degree temperature entirely by solar energy.

“The system should pay for itself in about 10 years,” said Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Scott Baker. “This project is a perfect example of a win-win situation. It is very environmentally friendly and it makes great economic sense. I think it’s important for public agencies to do projects like this so people can see positive alternatives in action. Hopefully this project will be an inspiration to others and solar energy will spread to the rooftops of Hood River.”

The system is simple. Each of the four solar panels consists of about a mile of black plastic tubing. The panels will be connected to each other and a new pump system will push the pool water through the tubes. The system will circulate the entire volume of the pool through the panels in about six hours. From March through September the natural gas boiler will be used only as a secondary source. The panels will then be drained and flushed clean before the first freeze of the fall.

The price tag for the panels, the pump, piping, a new control panel, a new high-efficiency boiler and installation is about $273,000. The successful bidder for the project was a company called Enertia Energy, Inc. Hood River Valley Parks and Recreation District received about $90,000 in grants and tax credits, leaving the remaining balance to be paid by the district. With a 23 percent increase in natural gas prices this year alone, the long-term benefits of the project are clear. The lifespan of the plastic tubing in the panels is 20-plus years, which means after the first 10 years of paying for itself, the system will save the HRVPRD at least $273,000.

“The payback for solar heating is so fast,” Baker said. “We also want this to be an educational tool for students and the public. I hope people will see the system and realize it’s an incredibly simple and feasible alternative for use in homes. It’s so simple, in fact, it’s almost ludicrous that they aren’t on every rooftop in the U.S.”

Latest stories

Latest video:

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

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners