Plans for a solar microgrid at Capitol Hill community center will power building, through rain, shine… or disaster

Miller Community Center (Image: CHS)

Seattle’s community centers provide a lot of simple but important things to their neighborhoods including recreation and meeting space. But they could also help the city develop strength and resilience in a future of extreme weather and in emergencies like a giant earthquake.

Seattle City Light is partnering with Seattle Parks and Recreation to implement a first of its kind solar microgrid at Capitol Hill’s Miller Community Center.

The microgrid involves more than solar panels as a battery energy storage system and microgrid controls will also be installed.

The planned system will provide backup power storage necessary to keep the community center functioning during windstorms, power outages, and other emergency events.

“The project will empower a community to recover quickly from unplanned emergency events and gain technical knowledge on the installation and operation of a microgrid system,” Seattle City Light says about the project. “Analytics from the microgrid resiliency project will allow the City of Seattle to research and develop similar technologies.” Continue reading

Grants power new solar arrays atop Harborview, Seattle Central

(Image: Harborview Medical Center)

First Hill’s Harborview is installing the largest solar array of any hospital in the state with help from City of Seattle and federal grants.

“Harborview is committed to sustainability in our operations,” Pam Jorgensen, assistant the hospital’s administrator of facilities and engineering said in the announcement of the project. “This solar project will help us meet our carbon reduction goals, create redundant power for the West Hospital in case of an emergency, and demonstrate the feasibility of solar power on healthcare facilities.”

McKinstry is the design-build firm on the project.

Grants from City Light’s Green Up program and the Department of Commerce are helping to fund the project:

Seattle City Light’s Green Up program, which provides funding for local renewable energy programs and projects, awarded Harborview $50,000. The Department of Commerce’s Energy Efficiency Grant Program helps state and local agencies pay for energy efficiency upgrades and solar installations, and awarded Harborview an additional $47,000.

Other Green Up recipients include Capitol Hill Housing and Seattle Central: Continue reading

Capitol Hill’s Bullitt Center becomes world’s first ‘living’ office building

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(Image: CHS)

One day, thinking robots will deeply challenge our notion of what constitutes a living thing. Thinking buildings that completely sustain themselves may do the same and E Madison’s Bullitt Center is evidently leading the way.

Billed as the greenest commercial building in the world, the Bullitt Center was recently awarded the Living Building Certification. It’s the first office building to get the designation, considered the most rigorous sustainability certification in the world. CHS wrote about the Bullitt’s nomination last year. We were also there when it opened to much applause and greater expectations in April 2013.

The Living Building certification is awarded to buildings that essentially operate as living organisms — one that is self-sufficent for water and energy and actively promotes the health of its occupants and surrounding environment.

Solar panels atop the 15th and Madison building produce an excess amount of energy sold back to Seattle City Light, human waste is composted, graywater is treated onsite, and the estimated 1,000 different building materials and products used to build the center are devoid of hundreds of typical toxic chemicals.

Running it all is the building’s “brain,” which automatically adjusts systems to optimize for the for the time of day, time of year, the number of people in the building, CO2 levels, and weather.

“We think of this building as a living thing,” said Bullitt spokesperson Brad Kahn. Continue reading

On sunny Capitol Hill, local solar has been a tougher than usual sell


The solar panels at 10th and E John (Image: Capitol Hill Housing)

Planetarily speaking, you know Seattle’s record breaking warm and dry winter is nothing to boast about. It’s hard not to feel guilty posting sun soaked photos on Facebook while your East Coast friends suffer in a climate change-induced frozen tundra. Since we’re probably on track for more of the same, one guilt-free way to benefit from our sunnier winters is to invest in some local solar energy.

Last year, CHS told you about the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict’s plans for a community-backed solar project at a 10th and E John property owned by Capitol Hill Housing. The solar panels are up and running atop the Holiday Apartment building and around 1,200 units went up for sale last year.

The Capitol Hill Housing site is City Light’s fourth community solar project and has been one of the slowest to sell out. According to Suzanne DuRard, who manages the program for City Light, earlier projects captured many of the customers who were most passionate about solar. Continue reading