Solar Power is Coming to the MMC

by Jeff Hawkins

In the fall of 2006 it became clear to the Conservation Committee that we were in the age of climate change and the Mazamas’ Mission to protect the mountain environment assumed a new urgency. We needed to do more. We needed direct links between our mission and our own actions. This led us to a vision for reducing the Mazamas carbon footprint. The committee first calculated the Mazamas’ carbon footprint, which mostly consists of emissions from automotive miles driven to our various activities, followed by the MMC and the lodge utilities—electricity, natural gas, and heating oil. Then in spring 2007 we created and hosted the Melting Mountains Conference for a packed house in the MMC. Glaciologist Andrew Fountain spoke along with political leaders from the City of Portland, Metro, and the Oregon Legislature. In the fall of 2009 we started a tree planting program and have worked in the Sandy Basin Watershed nearly every spring and fall for eight years planting an estimated 6,500 trees. There have been small efforts too, like installing a hand dryer in the restroom at the MMC to reduce a huge consumption of paper towels.

The next action is to install a solar electric array on the MMC. We tried once in 2008, but ran into legal issues and an economic recession that prevented us from obtaining financing. There were also important concerns about penetrating the MMC roof for attachment.

Things have changed. Installers now have available non-penetrating clamps for panel attachment to the seams of the MMC roof. Costs have come down by a factor of four. And there is better understanding on how to structure financing that works for non-profits.

Here are some basic parts of the plan:

  • A Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is the legal structure we will be using to fund the array. It forms a relationship between an owner (Elemental energy) and a host (Mazama MMC). The owner finances the array. The host has the array on their building and purchases the power from the owner. This is an especially beneficial arrangement for the Mazamas. It allows us to work with a for-profit partner who can take advantage of the Federal Investment Tax Credit which is 43% of the funding.
  • PPAs come in variations. We will be using a prepaid PPA where the value of power to be generated over the duration of the contract is estimated and is paid up front. This is less complicated than making quarterly payments based on actual power generated and is significantly less costly due to eliminating administration—meter reading, billing, power payments and loan repayment to investors.
  • The Mazamas Foundation will be providing a loan to the Mazamas for the power pre-payment.
  • The array will generate ~41.4 kWh/year, which is estimated as 60 percent of the MMC’s electricity usage and is worth $4,300/year. The Mazamas will pay off the Foundation loan with these savings.
  • Elemental Energy, our for-profit partner (also the installer), will own the array for 10 years at which point the Mazamas will purchase the array at fair market value.

There are other costs:

  • We owe the Oregon Clean Power Coop $2,696 for developing the PPA contract and for arranging a for-profit partner. This will be loaned to the Mazamas by the Foundation.
  • Legal review of the PPA has been done and paid for from the Mazamas general spending account.
  • Installation of safety anchors, structural improvement, gutter repair, roof cleaning and tree removal are estimated to cost $10,000. This will be paid for by member contributions and the MMC maintenance account.
  • End of contract purchase is currently estimated at $2,538.

The solar array will be grid tied, that is, it will produce power only when the electrical grid is operating. There will be no batteries. We will not be able to power the MMC when PGE’s grid is down.

PGE will be our virtual battery. Excess power generated during the peak months of March through August will be “stored” as credits for use during the winter months when generation is lower and heating cost is higher. See illustration.

In every project there are concerns. These are the most commonly expressed and our responses,

    • Roof life: Two independent roof inspections indicate that the MMC roof is in excellent condition with an estimated life of 25 years or longer.

    • Roof attachment: We will be using a clamp that is designed to attach to the standing seam on the roof without penetration.

    • Roof strength: The roof is secured to the building along the seams with one screw every two feet. This is standard, but our roof inspector believes it is insufficient to safely support the weight of the array. We are seeking input from structural engineers that might lead us to add more screws at the top of each roof panel. Other roof work will be done at the same time—cleaning, repairing gutters, and adding safety anchors for array installation and future maintenance. 
    • Building strength: The trusses are on 24-inch spacing and in this situation the City of Portland does not require structural engineering. We have elected to do this anyway. Though when we had this done in 2008 the building was found to be more than strong enough for the then proposed 20 kW array that was only 60 percent the size of the current 37.4 kW array.
    • Legal issues: The PPA that will be in place between Mazamas and Elemental Energy was reviewed on behalf of the Mazamas by David Van’t Hof, an attorney who focuses on sustainability, clean technology, renewable energy and carbon regulation. David is also a Mazama member.
    • Contractor experience: Elemental Energy has been in business since 2008 and has installed nearly 300 hundred in Oregon and internationally. The have used this clamping system before. 
    • Should anything go wrong, in spite of our best efforts, the Mazamas Foundation will have insurance for damage to the structure and for the replacement value of the array.
    The next steps are to sign contracts, complete the detailed design of the array, submit plans to PGE for pre-approval, order materials, and complete installation by the end of February.

    Many thanks to many people for the participation and support along the way.

    • A long list of people in 2008 who contributed so much during the first attempt. You all know who you are.
    • Dan Orzech at Oregon Clean Power Coop for creating the current contracts and identifying our financial partner.
    • David Van’t Hof for legal review.
    • The Foundation Committee for detailed review of the contract, asking all the important questions and providing the loan to the Mazamas.
    • Bob Breivogel, John Rettig, Dan Crisp, Gerry Itkin and Jeff Hawkins for member financial contributions

    Come March your MMC will begin producing half of its annual power usage for the next 25 years—$4,300/year and approximately $130,000 total. And perhaps more importantly, we will be actively living the values we hold dear by protecting the environment we all cherish.

    Traveling Back in Time: An Evening with Doug Robinson

    Maggie Tomberlin operates the Balopticon lantern slide projector while Matthew Brock narrates the slides.
    Photo: Jacob Raab

    by Mathew Brock, Library & Historical Collections Manager

    Brad & Mary French don old-time climbing garb.
    Photo: Jacob Raab
    On Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016 over 60 people gathered to support the Mazama Library & Historical Collections and to hear a presentation by legendary climber Doug Robinson. The evening kicked off with a short reception where attendees viewed summit register boxes, stereographic photos, ice axes, alpenstocks, climbing ropes, and Mazama memorabilia among other artifacts on display. Larger, rarely seen objects exhibited included the bike ridden atop Mt. Hood in 1946, the tent used by Bill Hackett on his K2 attempt in 1960, and a mannequin dressed in typical clothing in use around 1935. Mathew Brock, Mazama Library & Historical Collections Manager gave short tours of the library and archival collections during the reception.

    Doug Couch checks out one of the
    items from the Mazama archives.
    Photo: Jacob Raab
    Executive Director Lee Davis got the program started at 6:30 p.m. by introducing Lowell Skoog, noted author, historian, and head of the Seattle Mountaineers History Committee. In his role as master of ceremonies for the evening, Lowell talked about his interest and research into the history of skiing and mountaineering in the Pacific Northwest. Mathew highlighted some of the current and future initiatives within the Library & Historical Collections. A slideshow about the Mazama-sponsored C.E. Rusk 1910 expedition to Mt. McKinley followed using original glass lantern slides and the Mazamas' own 100-year-old Balopticon lantern slide projector. Library volunteer Maggie Tomberlin assisted with running the slide projector while Mathew read a recounting of the expedition drawn from dispatches published between 1910 and 1911 in the Pacific Monthly magazine.
    Following a dinner of lasagna, salad, and fresh bread, Lowell kicked off the fundraising part of the evening by sharing some insights into the recent collapse of the Mountaineers' library in Seattle and the danger posed by a decline in support. Long-time members Jeff Thomas, Brad French, and Robert Lockerby then addressed the value, importance, and stories contained within the Mazama Library & Historical Collections.

    An attendee reads the information on one of the
    table displays. Photo: Jacob Raab
    The evening ended with a presentation by climbing legend Doug Robinson. Mr. Robinson published an essay in the 1972 Chouinard Equipment Catalog entitled "The Whole Natural Art of Protection" that welcomed in a new era of clean climbing. Besides his early years climbing in Yosemite Valley, Robinson talked about growing up and learning to climb in California and his exploits in ski mountaineering.

    In all the Mazama Library & Historical Collections raised just under $4,000 in sustaining and one-time donations. A hearty thank you to everyone who came and supported. We can not preserve the long and amazing history of the Mazamas without your help. If you were unable to attend this year, we plan on making the event an annual tradition. If you value the Mazama Library & Historical Collections and the ongoing efforts to maintain and preserve the long history of the Mazamas, please consider making a donation today.


    Honoring Fred Beckey's Literary Achievements: On Display at The Summit

    A display of Beckey's works at The Summit at Revolution
    Hall on Nov. 19.
    by Mathew Brock, Mazama Library & Historical Archives Manager
    While Fred Beckey may be known by most as the Northwest’s finest and most prolific climber, and a seminal figure in North American mountaineering, focus on his climbing career alone fails to capture his impact on, and contribution, to climbing. Over the course of seven decades, Fred has published a wide range of books, ranging from local and regional climbing guides, and historical treatises, to gripping personal narratives of his climbing adventures. His Cascade climbing alone provides a broad range of information (including history and geology for and astounding range of peaks, paving the way for countless amateur climbers and adventurers.

    Fred Beckey begins his literary career with the Climber’s Guide to the Cascade and Olympic Mountains of Washington, published in 1949 by the American Alpine Club, the first comprehensive guide to Northwest peaks. After approaching the Seattle-based Mountaineers, the Alpine Club agreed to release a few thousand copies for a flat fee. A revised edition, as well as a supplement, followed in 1953, and again in 1960. In 1965 the Mountaineers published Beckey's and Eric Bjornstad’s Guide to Leavenworth Rock Climbing Areas. The Challenge of the North Cascades followed in 1969 and is often praised as his best work. The book chronicles his more than three decades of climbing and exploring the North Cascade peaks and countless first ascents (his bold second ascent of the formidable Mt. Waddington as a teen (“used felt pullovers on tennis shoes”) being notable. Four years later, Beckey published the first volume of the Cascade Alpine Guide, Columbia River to Stevens Pass. Volume Two, Stevens Pass to Rainy Pass followed in 1977, and Volume Three, Rainy Pass to Fraser River, in 1981. The series became known affectionately as the “Beckey Bible,” or simply, the “Beckey.” Now in its third edition, the books remain as popular as ever. Between Vols. One and Two, Beckey published the Darrington & Index Rock Climbing Guide in 1976.

    In 1999 Becky and long-time guide Alex Van Steen published Climbing Mount Rainier, highlighting fifty alternate routes to the summit. In 2003 Beckey finished his most expansive project to date, the 563-page Range of Glaciers. Published by the Oregon Historical Society Press, the books is a comprehensive accounting of the nineteenth-century exploration and survey of the Northern Cascade Range. Beckey traveled widely in researching the book, visiting archives and libraries across the United States and Canada. In 2011 Patagonia Books published Fred Beckey’s 100 Favorite North American Climbs, a coffee-table-sized magnum opus. The book, filled with hand-drawn topos, photographs, narrative description, and plenty of notes, chronicles Beckey’s detailed knowledge of the mountains and climb routes he knows and loves.

    Fred Beckey’s body of literary work is amazing and, unfortunately, often overlooked. His decades- long effort to document and share, in print, his experiences and travels are truly remarkable and represent an absolutely critical contribution to the Northwest climbing and exploration canon.