Samish Bay Cheese: Destination Solar-Powered Deliciousness

By Eric Laschever

Samish Bay Cheese owners, Suzanne and Roger Wechsler have been living their dream of an organic dairy since 1999.  The mileage on their farm truck—which shuttles them to as many as 12 farmers markets per week—shows their commitment. And it was those miles that helped inspire a new dream.

What if the Wechslers could turn their dairy into a destination farm, so customers would come to them and they could spend less time on the road? And what if they powered that dream with solar energy?

Photo by Meredith Shank

Well-versed in dairy, but relatively new to the energy market, the Wechslers contacted Mia Devine at Spark Northwest to evaluate the economic and technical viability of a photovoltaic (PV) system. Mia answered the Wechslers’ questions about the federal Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) and confirmed their funding eligibility.  She helped them review contractor bids, analyzed the economic benefits of different system options, calculated on‐site electricity consumption, verified renewable energy generation calculations, and compiled environmental impact information.

“I don’t know that we could have got the grant without Spark Northwest’s help,” explains Roger.

Photo by Meredith Shank

They Wechslers received $29,000 in federal funding and their resulting 49 kW solar PV system, ambitiously large for a business this size, provides up to 60% of the company’s energy. They also installed LED lighting and moved from multiple refrigeration units to a larger single unit to increase energy efficiency.

In total, their investments are projected to result in savings of $5,000 annually–helping to sustain version 2.0 of the Wechsler’s dream.

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You can check out Samish Bay Cheese and their delicious products online or (even better) stop by their farm in Skagit Valley. You can also learn about Spark Northwest’s rural energy programs and support their work by making a tax-deductible donation.

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