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Innovative solar energy solution saves money and provides much-needed power to remote location
This is a photo of the solar trailer installed at the Camp 6 Guard Station in southeast Oregon
Solar trailed installed at the Camp 6 Guard Station

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Distribution:  Major Media
September 17, 2009
Contact: Dustin Gustaveson,
541-947-3311, or
dgustaveson@odf.state.or.us
09-38
 
 
A unique renewable energy project is providing much-needed power both to a remote guard station during fire season and to buildings at the Oregon Department of Forestry’s (ODF) Lakeview Unit during the winter.
 
The new “solar trailer” has just been installed at the Camp 6 Guard Station, 13 miles north of Bly. Two fire engine crews (six personnel) staff the guard station 24/7 from June through October. Previously, power was supplied by a large, conventional diesel generator, with no power storage capability. Whenever crew members needed power – or even water – they had to go outside and start the generator, which received approximately 1,500 hours of use each fire season.
 
“Besides the inconvenience, the previous generator was unreliable and had become very costly to maintain – from several hundred to a few thousand dollars per year,” said ODF’s Lakeview Unit Forester, Dustin Gustaveson. “It had never been a good fit for the guard station due to it being oversized and unable to operate at optimal levels, and was already a surplus property item when we acquired it more than 12 years ago.”
 
A better power source at the guard station has been a topic of discussion for years. Gustavson continued to pursue a solution when he started work in Lakeview last January, with the remote location leading him to consider some type of renewable energy solution.
 
“The guard station is more than two miles from the nearest power grid,” he said. “Connecting the station to that grid was estimated to cost about $175,000 – not a viable option for us.”
 
One potential obstacle in converting to solar power was vandalism. The guard station is in an area that sees heavy recreational use. When vacant during the winter months, there have been frequent instances of vandalism and break-ins by people using it as a warming station. The previous generator was always towed to the Lakeview Unit for storage when the guard station closed at the end of wildfire season. Therefore, any alternative energy solution would also have to be portable.
 
Gustaveson assigned research on a solar solution to ODF Forest Officer Rob Wood.  
 
“This was a challenging project,” said Wood, “and our need for a portable solution made it even more so. Many of the companies I spoke with told me that it could not be done.”
 
Ultimately, a Klamath Falls-based company, EcoSolar, Inc., came up with the solution.
 
“The result meets all of our needs,” Wood said. “The unit includes the actual solar panels, batteries, electrical components, converters, and a small back-up propane generator that will automatically kick in if needed – all installed on a custom-built flatbed trailer that we can move about as necessary.”
 
Since the trailer must be moved from the guard station to the Lakeview Unit compound when fire season ends, the solar panels will then serve double duty by providing power to some of the buildings there from November through May.
 
Gustaveson estimates the project cost at $47,000, which includes service and maintenance for one year. The unit is expected to pay for itself over the next 10 years. Savings include the maintenance and diesel fuel expenses for the previous generator, and the offset power costs at the Lakeview Unit.
 
“Another benefit of this system is a mobile power unit that could potentially be available in emergency situations such as Incident Management Team mobilizations and/or other natural disasters,” said Gustaveson.
 
The Camp 6 Guard Station is on private lands, and was originally part of a logging camp. The Oregon Department of Forestry has been staging fire engines and firefighting crews there since the 1970s to provide fire protection to the surrounding area.
 
 
 
Note: Photos of the installed solar trailer and the Camp 6 Guard Station are  available upon request.
 
 
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