“We are extremely excited to go solar at Quixote Village. This will not only reduce our carbon footprint, but the cost savings will let us focus more on providing services to our residents.” stated Quixote Village Associate Director Jaycie Osterberg-Brown.
Quixote Communities teamed up with Olympia Community Solar for the Quixote Village Solar Project.
Construction on the project started on June 17. It consists of solar arrays across the roofs of the village’s tiny homes and the community building to generate renewable energy.
“The Quixote Village and Olympia Community Solar partnership will increase equitable access to cleaner and more affordable energy sources,” said Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland in the press release. “That’s why I was proud to support the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and other legislation that will further support clean energy investments across the South Sound.” Strickland visited Quixote Village on August 2.
“It's a tiny home village with 30 tiny homes and a common building. And our team has been working with the village nonprofit to fund a solar energy installation. It includes four solar panels on each of the 30 tiny homes, and 86 solar panels on the common building -- 206 in total. It took six separate grants to fund the project, and we've been working on it for over a year,” according to Mason Rolph, president of Olympia Community Solar. He added, “The whole idea is that we can leverage clean energy to reduce the power bills for low-income folks, [and] use the clean energy as a tool for equity and economic justice.”
Kirk Haffner, president of South Sound Solar, Inc. related that meeting city codes and utility requirements added to the challenge of putting solar onto the 30 tiny houses and on the community building. “It took a lot of planning and discussion. [The] city of Olympia was great. I came up with a plan and they saw how it would work and approved it.”
“Then working with the utility PSE, that one was a little bit more challenging, but we came up with a solid plan that we agreed with. They're really concerned about safety,” Haffner said.
“I think this project will enhance safety because now there will be a point of… service disconnect that's more accessible. So, if there was, God forbid, you know, a fire, an emergency. Now, first responders can go and just throw a big switch and turn off all the electricity. We needed that for solar but as I said, it also enhances safety,” Haffner detailed.
Haffner told The JOLT that he was part of the church communities that created the original Camp Quixote, which operated for seven years prior to the opening of Quixote Village. The “tent cities migrated between churches; they could stay at a given location [about] three months, and then they had to pack up and move to another location. And I was involved with both the Lacey Community Church and with Olympia Unitarian Universalist Church, which were both hosts. After that they said we need to find a more permanent location. Quixote Village was conceived way back [close to the year 2000]. I worked with MSGS Architects Garner Miller, [who] is the architect that designed the community building and we had talked about planning on putting solar on the community building. So this has been a long time coming.”
“I think it turned out to be a great location. It's really accessible to bus routes and services and things like that. Olympia Community Solar stepped up and said they're good at getting the funding to make solar projects for nonprofits happen. We've worked with them for many years. I was working with Mason before he was Olympia Community Solar. It was a natural [fit] for him to bring me in,” Haffner said.
The project is what Haffner called a design-build project. He continued, “We had to come up with the design. It's not just we can slap solar on the roof like you can on a residential house. And now we're doing the install. The plan is each tiny house gets four individual panels, but all the electricity here is centralized in the community building. And with that centralization, that means all of everything is contributing to the site. It's not like an individual house is just going to see the benefits of solar, the whole community [will].”
Residents are thankful
Quixote resident Jackie, who shared about the love of her garden and how it’s her therapy said that she’s gotten therapy here and has survived a lot. “I appreciate all of you that are helping to make more possibilities for more people and I would love to be a part of that and help somehow someway,” Jackie related.
Another resident, Nancy, said,"I am excited for the solar panel installation because it will be very beneficial to the Village and allow us to be more environmentally friendly and hopefully we will be able to save money to continue to benefit the Village."
Support from Congresswoman Strickland
Strickland came to the first day of testing of the system.
“I'm here today to show support for the fact that we can help house people. We can also be very, very thoughtful about the type of energy we're using to reduce our carbon footprint. And this is really a testament to the fact that it can work. For me, my long-term goal is to get federal policy that will allow us to not necessarily keep doing pilot projects, but saying we are committed to this,” said Strickland.
“We're going to make the federal investment in this we're going to work with utility companies to make sure that we're able to make sure this is part of our entire portfolio,”” she added
More Sustainability and Jobs Through Solar and Green Energy
“The Senate released the infrastructure [bill], and in there is a big portion about clean energy and dealing with climate. As we looked past that, that will have elements in it that will help address some of these challenges that we have with climate change, [and] having policies [that make] investments in clean energy,” Strickland said.
“The fact that [Senator] Joe Manchin, who comes from West Virginia, a very, coal-oriented state is willing to say we need to have a transition, I think it's really important. Of course, the concern is always going to be about people's employment and opportunities. And this is being framed as a jobs bill,” she stated.
Strickland pointed to the roof of the tiny house where a team of workers were installing panels and said, “Look at the people working on the roof there. This is also about housing, it's about climate, but it's about jobs that pay well. And I think the conversation is how do we think about how we talk about this across the country. Because every community is very different and not as dedicated to the things that were dedicated here in the 10th [congressional district].”
She goes on about making the case for, “it's good jobs, it's housing, people who need help, it’s dealing with climate change and really just making a strong case to the American people. The inflation Reduction Act has major elements that will support this type of work. We want it to pass the Senate and I look forward to voting on it.”
What’s special about solar?
Strickland relates about solar power’s accessibility, “for a long time, you had to have the means in order to have solar. So, it's a conversation about equity. And everything that we do as Democrats is done through the lens of equity, whether it's economic development, dealing with climate change, and getting access to clean energy, and this is a very good example of doing just that.”
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