Habitat for Humanity and Ecotech Solar will be presenting two upcoming workshops on solar energy in Bellingham. The first will be from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, October 26 at the Unity Spiritual Center at 1095 Telegraph Road. The next one will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Monday, November 4 at the Chuckanut Center at 103 Chuckanut Drive North. They are both free to attend.
During the workshops, homeowners will learn about the environmental and economic incentives of outfitting their homes with solar panels. Members from both organizations will be available to answer questions. Additionally, Ecotech Solar offers free home assessments for those interested in solar energy.
“A lot of it is dispelling myths about how hard it is to get solar, and allaying people’s fears about the free estimate,” Habitat for Humanity communications manager John Ellison said. “These systems [of solar energy] do make people more aware of something that’s kind of invisible: how much power they’re using versus how much they could cut back and save.”
Ellison said a wide mix of people have attended their past workshops, from “green energy nerds” to those simply curious about how solar energy could work in their own homes.
Solar energy is a greener alternative, and is especially attractive to residents of Whatcom County because it adds value to existing homes. There are also federal tax incentives for homeowners installing solar systems.
“People develop a relationship around this stuff like they wouldn’t before, because they care about getting the most out of their investment,” Ellison said.
The solar panels themselves are typically 3.5 by 5 feet, and about an inch thick. They are lightweight and watertight and can last up to 30 years, even in the rainiest climate. The average home may have 20 to 30 pounds of panels installed. Typically installed within a few days, they generate solar energy from their place on top of roofs.
“The panels offset your electrical bill because you generate a lot of power from them,” Ellison said. “A lot of people feel really good that they’re not drawing more power than they need to.”
For both organizations, the workshops are part of a larger effort to build solar-efficient homes. Habitat for Humanity and Ecotech Solar have formed a partnership building 52 homes in a new housing development, Telegraph Townhomes. The homes will all rely on solar energy, whether from panels installed on individual homes or on a community space, such as a community building.
The homes will also have low mortgages and cost less than $20 per month to heat. A two-bedroom unit will average 950 square feet, and a three-bedroom unit will average 1,200 square feet.
Telegraph Townhomes will take several years to finish. Ellison said roofs are on the houses and the sheetrocking process has begun. They are currently on schedule and have finished the first part of phase one, including building eight houses for eight families to move into starting in the spring of 2020.
To buy the homes, a selection committee has been evaluating applicants based on their income, housing conditions and ability to complete community service hours for Habitat for Humanity, either in their store or at building sites.
“We could do two Telegraph Townhomes, and we wouldn’t be able to keep up,” Ellison said. “The need here is huge in Whatcom County.”