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Mono Lake Committee goes net-zero with solar

July 25th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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In 2010 the Mono Lake Committee started the process of converting to solar power with nine solar panels installed on the roof of the “ice house” office building, and then added an additional 33 panels to the roof of the bookstore building in 2012. We also took a number of conservation measures, such as switching to LED bulbs in the bookstore, and have been monitoring our usage carefully. By 2016 we had completed our big conservation steps and reduced our annual grid power demand by over 80%.

Despite these reductions, we had a goal to generate all the power needed for the bookstore and offices right here on the property. In late June 2017, Sierra Solar installed 16 more panels, and now that the grid-intertie has been completed, we are expecting to achieve net zero power demand on the grid on an annual basis!

Four panels fit on the canopy over the main bookstore doors, generating power and providing visitors with a visual example of our commitment to sustainable energy. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Most of the Committee’s solar panels are largely invisible to members and visitors since they’re atop the bookstore and ice house office roofs. We asked Jim at Sierra Solar to check the power-generation potential of panels on the canopy over the main bookstore doors, so that the public could more easily see our solar efforts. It turns out that panels there generate a fair amount of power in the bright morning sunshine, so we had four panels installed.

Eight panels top the Committee’s shade structure, offering more shade for people using the area and all the while generating power. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Eight panels went up on the shade structure over our picnic tables, increasing the shade cover for folks using that area. In addition to generating power from direct sunlight shining from above, these particular eight panels turn any light reflected off the ground into energy as well.

The sunny south wall of the ice house office building was a prime spot for four more solar panels. Photo by Elin Ljung.

One last spot among the Committee’s buildings had good solar power generation potential—the south-facing side of the ice house office building, which could accommodate four panels. Jim and Will of Sierra Solar put an otherwise blank section of wall to use.

With 58 panels total, we now generate as much power as we use, and even a little more. That buffer will allow us to remain at net-zero even if we add more electronics to the office or embark on a new energy-intensive project. Thanks to Sierra Solar and members’ contributions, we’re taking good advantage of the powerful Eastern Sierra sunlight and becoming a little greener as we do!

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