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Published: Wednesday, December 29, 2010, 12:01 a.m.

Solar power will heat River Meadows' yurts

  • River Meadows County Park features six yurts that the public can rent, including these two 16-foot yurts.

    Dan Bates / Herald file

    River Meadows County Park features six yurts that the public can rent, including these two 16-foot yurts.

  • The yurts at Kayak Point Park (above) were so popular, the county built a new yurt village at River Meadows Park in Arlington in early 2009. While the...

    Jennifer Buchanan / Herald File

    The yurts at Kayak Point Park (above) were so popular, the county built a new yurt village at River Meadows Park in Arlington in early 2009. While the Kayak Point Park yurts have electric heaters, newer building codes required alternative energy use at River Meadows.

ARLINGTON — Yurts in Snohomish County's River Meadows Park are going solar.
Solar panels are expected to start powering the six tent-like structures at the park early next year. That should make the yurts a bit more comfy for overnight rentals in any season.
“That will reduce our power bills for the park,” senior parks planner Sharon Swan said.
The yurts occupy an old orchard at the 150-acre park along the South Fork Stillaguamish River about four miles outside of Arlington. They were installed in early 2009.
Ten yurts at the county's Kayak Point Park, which are older, have electric heaters. When the county installed the River Meadows yurts, newer building codes required them to use alternative energy. That left the structures without a constant heat source.
“We've had complaints about the heat level,” Swan said.
Parks and planning officials decided that a 1-kilowatt solar-power system would be the best way to provide heat.
The county paid about $16,000 total for the dark, rectangular panels made by Silicon Energy of Marysville, Swan said. They're just like panels installed this past spring on roofs at the county campus in Everett to power electric-vehicle charging stations.
The park's panels are expected to produce about 1,160 kilowatt-hours per year. That should provide more than enough heat, potentially making the yurts more popular to rent during the colder months.
The average U.S. residential utility customer in 2008 used 11,040 kilowatt-hours per year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Any power that's not immediately used at River Meadows would go back to the grid.
“We probably won't be generating more than we use,” Swan said, “but it will probably offset our consumption.”
The yurts are a modern adaptation of shelters that Central Asian nomads have used for centuries. More recently, they've gained a following among outdoor enthusiasts.
The yurts at River Meadows have a wood frame, rafters, a framed door and an insulated fabric cover. The largest yurt at the park can sleep up to eight people on bunks and futons, and smaller ones hold up to five people.
Nightly rental fees, before taxes and other fees, range from $41 to $82 per night. People also can rent cabins at Flowing Lake County Park or a cottage at Kayak Point County Park.
“At some point, we're talking about having more significant solar opportunities at campgrounds,” county parks director Tom Teigen said. “Our whole motto is ‘Live green, love parks,' so we're looking for places where we can be innovative.”
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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