Pacific Rim Institute for Environmental Stewardship Case StudyFire Mountain Solar
• Reduce utility expenses taken from donation funds
• Net zero power usage and become more sustainable
• Find a power solution that grows with their organization
As a private nonprofit working hard to responsibly manage the donations they receive, Pacific Rim Institute (PRI) is always looking for ways to reduce overhead costs so more of their funds can go to their primary missions of promoting sustainability and caring for the environment. One conspicuous opportunity for reducing expenses was lowering their very large electric bill; going solar aligned perfectly with this goal and their mission.
The roots of the Pacific Rim Institute were established when CEO Dr. Robert K. Pelant, DVM, came across 175-acres for sale. Once a pheasant farm, the acreage included a mixture of prairie, savanna, and forest land that had a high probability of being destroyed if it wasn’t in the right hands. Dr. Pelant followed his instincts, and along with other members of the community he took action. The group provided the owner with a detailed business plan to purchase and conserve the land, and in 2009 PRI was established. The objective? To restore the endangered ecosystems and provide university level environmental education. Since then, PRI has educated the community, fostered growth of native plants, and nourished the diverse ecosystems that had long been neglected.
In 2009, the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington (UW) and the National Parks Service (NPS) approached Dr. Pelant with an opportunity. The NPS had awarded the UW a grant for installation of a small solar array. PRI’s mission of sustainability and the campus’s location made it the perfect site for the project, and the institute’s focus on environmental education paired well with the plan to allow UW students to observe the installation as part of their studies. After searching for the right company to provide the expertise, Fire Mountain Solar was selected to perform the installation. The result, a five panel solar array was installed on one of the property’s 35 buildings, and it continues to provide power for the facility to this day.
Over the years as the Pacific Rim Institute grew, its energy use significantly increased, and finding ways to lower those costs became a priority. After reducing power consumption and increasing efficiency, investing in more renewable energy just made sense. Robert reflected that “the community connection and support Fire Mountain Solar provided the first time around made them irresistible to work with again”.
In 2018, PRI contacted FMS about increasing their solar production. FMS owners Tim and Alana took the time to get to know PRI’s needs and goals, and provided recommendations for a system that would help the organization as a long-term solution and investment. The result: FMS installed large solar arrays on two of the buildings on the property, supported and funded by eager PRI donors. The power they now produce covers about a third of PRI’s energy use.
When asked about the most surprising benefit of working with FMS, Robert stated:
The savings captured [by the solar] were not exactly a surprise, but we benefited in other ways by being brought into FMS’s community. The quality of their work is excellent, but they are not just a business providing a service. They are also deeply invested in the quality of life in the greater community. FMS helped PRI build connections with potential donors, and they continually work to increase PRI’s visibility. We are much better off as an organization for having worked with FMS.
In 2021, the Pacific Rim Institute continues their efforts to make their organization more energy efficient, and they are currently working with FMS on their visions for expansion of their solar system in 2022.
System Size: 26.84 kW
88 Itek 305 Watt Solar Panels
44 APSystems Micro Inverters
Ironridge XR100 Racking
SunModo EZ Roof Mount Kits
• Reduced power expenses freeing up funds to directly benefit PRI’s restoration efforts of their 175 acres of prairie
• Renewable power better aligns PRI with its mission of sustainability
• Work with Fire Mountain Solar has invited the Pacific Rim Institute into a community of support and connection
• PRI’s solar system can be expanded as the need grows in the future