Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County is partnering with Ecotech Solar to offer free workshops for homeowners interested in learning about adding solar power to their homes. With every home solar system sold, Ecotech will donate one solar panel to be installed at Habitat’s Telegraph Townhomes Project in Bellingham. The following workshops will be held in October and November:
Unity Spiritual Center
1095 Telegraph Road, Bellingham
Saturday, October 26th
10:00 a.m. to Noon
103 Chuckanut Drive N., Bellingham
Monday, November 4th
5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Founded in 2004 by Dana Brandt, Ecotech Solar, a locally owned and operated solar contractor, is partnering with Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County to bring solar power to Habitat’s flagship 52-home housing development, the Telegraph Townhomes Project.
Telegraph is a purpose-built 52-unit community of townhomes designed with the core Habitat for Humanity building goals: a hand-up, not a handout, by building safe, simple, decent, affordable homes. Habitat strives to build homes with a “net-zero-ready” energy plan, using appropriate technology whenever possible. As a result, Habitat homes cost less than $20/month to heat, on average.
Energy planning is always at the center of every Habitat home design. Seeking to have the biggest impact by addressing urgent housing needs in our community, Habitat strives to be both a partner and a catalyst in promoting sustainable housing alternatives. Installing solar power at the Telegraph Townhomes Project demonstrates innovation and serves the community’s most vulnerable residents.
The fit between Habitat and Ecotech is a natural one. Habitat’s mission has been, and remains, one of deep commitment to ending the housing crisis for working families in Whatcom County. Ecotech has an equally deep commitment to educating the community on the importance of smart, renewable, and sustainable sources of power, for both homes and businesses.
“Our partnerships are really important for us,” said Brandt. “We’ve worked with a number of different nonprofits. There’s certainly a need for affordable housing, and for people being able to own their homes. We don’t build homes, but if we can join Habitat and partner this way, and help out, and leverage what we do to help families reduce their energy bills at Telegraph, that’s awesome.”
Working together showcases the Habitat mission of creating dynamic partnerships between non-profits and for-profit businesses to create more future-thinking, affordable housing systems.
“I got into renewable energy initially to do international development work,” Brandt said in a recent conversation about why Ecotech Solar chose to partner with Habitat. “I learned about solar energy so that I could bring solar to people in other parts of the world that don’t have it.
“We’re still involved in projects around the world. We’ve worked in Haiti, installing a system for an orphanage there, and we continue to support them. I’ve also worked in Indonesia, helping to install 11 village-based systems that are now powering a thousand homes. What motivated me to get into solar energy was very much a caring for people, and that follows through to the staff I hire as well.”
Together, Habitat for Humanity and Ecotech Solar are hosting three free workshops for homeowners. The first workshop was held at Cordata Presbyterian Church (400 Meadowbrook Ct.), the second will be held Unity Spiritual Center (1095 Telegraph Road, across from Habitat’s Telegraph construction site), and the third at the Chuckanut Center (103 Chuckanut Drive N.).
Workshop participants will learn how solar energy will support the community at Telegraph (with every home solar system sold by Ecotech through these co-sponsored workshops, Ecotech will donate a solar panel to the 52-home Telegraph Townhome Project).
“The workshops are really an educational time, to come and learn the basics about how solar works in homes, what people need to know to make informed decisions, how the systems hook in, etc.,” said Brandt. “We have a really nice presentation to walk people through all the things they need to know to make a good decision. We also answer their questions.
“People should expect to leave the sessions with enough information to make an informed decision whether solar is right for their home. We can then schedule a free onsite assessment, where we take the measurements we need to put together a proper design for each home,” he added.
The Ecotech solar experts will explain how home-energy savings work, and how homeowners can sign-up for a free home evaluation at the end of each workshop. Workshop attendees will learn how easy it is to add solar panels to their homes. They’ll also learn about the current federal tax incentives that apply to homeowners installing solar in 2019/20 and get information about easy financing plans.
Solar panels, which are typically mounted on roofs (although they can be mounted in other places), generate the bulk of the electricity needed for the home. When the system generates more energy than needed, the extra energy goes back into the utility grid.
The key to making solar work for homeowners in all income brackets today has been the advent of “net metering.” When less energy is generated by the system at certain times of the year, any shortfall in energy comes to the house from the grid. This give and take in energy creation and use is called “net metering.”
“The costs have dropped so dramatically that solar is really accessible to people now,” said Brandt. “When I started the business in 2004, the costs were prohibitively high for most people. But since then, the costs have dropped 75%.”
There’s a big push right now for clean-energy alternatives. “People really want clean energy sources, and solar is a really accessible way to get that,” Brandt added. “And in a really personal way. It’s really fun to see solar panels on your roof, and to know that you’re using your own clean energy. It’s really empowering, making your own electricity. It’s like buying versus renting a home.
“Solar panels are, and have been for a really long time, a really reliable product,” Brandt continued. “Today, a 30-plus year lifetime for solar panels is a reasonable expectation. Most panels even carry 25 – 30-year warranties.”