A Community Website by Lopez Island
WSF: Electrify the San Juan Ferry Routes FIRST (Environment and Preservation)
San Juan Islands
January 12, 2019
Posted by Suzanne Olson (Opalco), Orcas Island

Don't Delay Protection of the Salish Sea!

The current WS Ferries Long range plan for deploying electric ferries puts the San Juan routes last on the list. Why lose decades in our efforts to protect the Salish Sea - and all of the species who depend on it? OPALCO is calling for WSF to prioritize getting the new, cleaner, quieter and super-efficient electric ferries to the San Juan Islands route FIRST.

Carbon pollution impacts our sensitive marine environment through acidification, warming air and water temperatures and changes to shoreline health and levels. Ferries make up 63% of the carbon emissions from the Washington State Transportation Fleet. The number of species that are affected in the Salish Sea area of the Puget Sound is remarkably concentrated and diverse: humans, Orcas whales, salmon, oysters, clams, bait fish, near shore eelgrass and kelp beds, birds, otters, seals, sea lions, invertebrates, and myriad other fish and mammal species.

In addition to carbon (and other contaminant) pollution, vessel noise has been identified as a major barrier to the health and survival of our Southern Resident Orcas Whales. The Governor’s 2019-2021 budget initiative states: “The frequent daily transits of Washington state ferries are a significant contributor to underwater noise in Puget Sound.”

OPALCO is ready and willing to help WSDOT meet the needs of electric ferries on the San Juan Islands routes. In 2019, OPALCO will install the first of many battery energy storage systems which can be utilized to help offset the large peaks that charging electric ferries will incur. OPALCO also brings to the table gigabit fiber and wireless infrastructure throughout the San Juan Islands routes to assist WSF with real-time monitoring and data sharing.

It goes without saying that Governor Inslee is particularly invested in the health and sustainability of our small inland sea and has already allocated significant resources to address the issues that put it, and our resident Orca pods in particular, at risk.

“My gratitude goes out to staff of WSDOT Ferries and our local Ferry Advisory Committee,” said OPALCO General Manager Foster Hildreth. “For letting our legislators know that our ferry system is broken and we have to fix it. OPALCO wants to help WSF pilot electric ferries here in the islands! As a Co-op, we can support the effort and help shorten the learning curve.”

Adding electric ferries to OPALCO’s system provides a number of benefits: it adds local revenue through new power demand at a time of declining energy usage due to climate change and efficiency gains; and it opens up the potential for a ferry to act as a battery and provide a power source to the islands during extreme emergency situations. Reliable, clean transportation is just as important as power and internet.

Please reach out to your elected officials and ask them to encourage the WSDOT Ferries to deploy electric ferries on the San Juan Islands routes FIRST.

It’s not that we mind the notion of hand-me-downs boats - islanders are boot-strappers - but the opportunities for significant, measurable results are far too great to ignore. Please help us get the reliable electrified ferry service that is appropriate for our environmentally sensitive environment - before it’s too late.

The complete letter sent by OPALCO to WSDOT Ferries is online: https://www.opalco.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Electrify-Ferries_SJI-FIRST.pdf


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Steve Ludwig (Lopez): WSF: Electrify the San Juan Ferry Routes FIRST

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OPALCO desperately wants to sell more electricity because of their $50million debt caused by their decision to enter the retail internet business.But Rock Island continues to lose Money hand over fist. Selling to WSF won't help. Only divesting Rock.... Read all
Bruce Ellestad (Lopez): WSF: Electrify the San Juan Ferry Routes FIRST

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Electricity is only clean and carbon free if it is produced in that way. Using natural gas, coal, oil to produce electricity just puts out carbon into the environment in a different location. Even hydropower is not carbon neutral if you look at the.... Read all
Jay Kimball (Orcas): WSF: Electrify the San Juan Ferry Routes FIRST

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Anything that uses more electricity helps reduce the cost of electricity for the rest of us. The more electricity is sold, helps spread the fixed cost of the grid.

Think of it this way, if you have a $100 million grid, but you only sell 1 kWh,.... Read all
Suzanne Olson (Orcas): WSF: Electrify the San Juan Ferry Routes FIRST

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Dan - good questions. OPALCO would charge WSF for the cost of the power required. Where we can compete is through peak shaving. Charging a ferry would cause a big peak on the system and any utility who serves them will be charging WSF for those peaks - or demand charges. OPALCO is planning a series of battery energy storage banks (with or without ferry charging)as part of our long-range plan for local resiliency. Using our fiber communications system, we will be able to instantaneously switch to an energy storage system when a ferry plugs in, to offset some of the demand for power, reducing peak charges and cost for WSF without any extra cost to other members. That is the vision. It takes 6-10 years to build a ferry so we have some time to engineer our system to make best use of the opportunity.

Our goal is to find efficient, healthy solutions for our membership and the sustainability of our island communities. Please stay tuned as this project progresses.
John Waugh (Lopez): WSF: Electrify the San Juan Ferry Routes FIRST

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Thanks for sounding the warnings, Dan. I can't imagine OPALCO trying to win a ferry contract on the backs of their member/customers. Stranger things have happened, I suppose. I'm keeping an open mind for now. This could have real benefits in.... Read all
Dan Post (Lopez): WSF: Electrify the San Juan Ferry Routes FIRST

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Here is my fear. OPALCO sets up a recharging station for WSF and sells them electricity. To compete with mainland prices OPALCO has to give WSF a discounted price from what they charge regular customers. Then to make up the price difference OPALCO has.... Read all
Dan Post (Lopez): WSF: Electrify the San Juan Ferry Routes FIRST

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Many questions but here is one. As we know, everything in san juan county cost more including electricity and you propose that WSF plug in to power at Orcas and Friday Harbor. So question is, how much would OPALCO charge WSF for electricity and how much.... Read all