Campaign Projects: Tassajara
Being in the wild mountains, and therefore off the grid, Tassajara has always generated its own power. First with diesel or propane generators. Now we’re moving to solar panels.
Working to further reduce the use of electricity in the valley, we increased the efficiency of the industrial refrigeration for the kitchens, reduced the use of pumps for the water system, stopped using an ice machine, began using ultra-efficient lighting, and engaged in educating the community around use, resulting in a 22% reduction in electrical load.
An average Californian household (of around 4 people) consumes 20 kWh per day of electricity. Remarkably, Tassajaraâ€™s peak usage, when there are 160 people living in the valley, uses 85 kWh per day of electricity! Per person, that is a 90% saving on usual consumption.
Last spring, the solar array and supporting electrical equipment was expanded by 50%, allowing Tassajara to generate 100% of its electrical needs from the sun with its 21 kWh system.
The completed array was designed 300 feet above the valley floor to maximize solar gain, with only 6 footings to minimize the impact on the ecosystem. Because of the hazardous location and delicate landscape, all of the equipment (5,000 pounds of steel structure, 340 bags of concrete, 51 panels and 2,000 pounds of cabling) was carried up the winding mountain steps and installed by hand.
As hoped, this projectâ€”overseen by Sun, Light and Power, the Berkeley-based clean energy firm that worked with us on installing solar panels on the roof at City Centerâ€”is now serving to meet the energy requirements of the Tassajara practice and summer guest community, particularly during the peak of summer when energy use is at its highest.
With heat and hot water provided by the natural hot springs and electrical needs provided by the sun, the kerosene used to light the cabin lamps in each cottage is now the only petrochemical product in use at Tassajara.Â We are currently in the process of replacing the kerosene lamps with solar-powered lights.