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Flashlights, Solar Energy & the PUD


No batteries needed. A candybar-sized flashlight with built-in solar cell and dynamo (generator). Extra-cool lanyard added by extra-cool field tester.

The WenatcheeOutdoors crowd already know this: I’m gonzo about lights. Powerful lights that brighten the night so you can ski during the dark hours, stingy lights that use power so sparingly they seem to burn forever on one battery,  miniscule lights you can carry in your pack to see you out of a dark spot when things go sideways on a trip … I’m an enamored by them  all.

Consequently when I saw this promotion from the PUD for a garagedoor-opener-sized  light that can be charged via a small solar cell incorporated into the side of the light OR via a crank that turns a generator inside the light, I had to add it to the arsenal.  It is bright enough to walk a trail by and small enough to add to the hiking ditty bag for those occasions when I’m pushing into the dark during a long hike. I can walk and crank the generator to create more charge than I’m using. And there’s no worry in that moment of need about whether the batteries will be fresh enough to see me out of a jam.

I saw this light a few years ago at a show and picked one up then. After testing it I wanted another for my wife’s pack but hadn’t found a local outlet. Now, however, I can get what I believe to be the same guts of the light by supporting the PUD’s SNAP program for six months. It’s a beautiful thing when I can satisfy my fetish and feel good about supporting sustainable energy too.

For those who aren’t familiar with the SNAP program – here’s a short article explaining the program with a few insights from locals as to why they participate in the program.

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Twelve years ago retired Park Service ranger Randy Brooks put a couple of solar panels up in his backyard in Chelan, connected the system to Chelan County PUD’s electrical grid, and became the first producer of Sustainable Natural Alternative Power (SNAP). Today the SNAP program has 58 producers around the county generating solar, wind and small-hydro power for Chelan PUD customers.

From the beginning, the program was designed to connect residents who want to produce solar and wind power with customers who want to support the development of new, renewable energy. And it still works that way. As a SNAP supporter, customers voluntarily pay a little extra on their utility bills. These customer donations are collected by the PUD and distributed once a year to the individuals, schools and nonprofit agencies that are SNAP producers. Renewable energy generated by SNAP producers goes into the PUD’s electrical grid and is distributed to PUD customers.

Encouraging solar and wind development has seemed like obvious effort to longtime supporter Sally Freed of Wenatchee. “There is so much sunshine here. Supporting SNAP is planning for a future of dwindling resources by tapping into something that comes to us naturally. We should be encouraging that.”

Freed also notes the connection with local schools; most of the schools in the county produce power for SNAP. “This is a great opportunity for kids to think about the current and future potential of solar energy.”  

Bill Kiehn of Wenatchee say he and his wife, Lavonne, support SNAP because it’s one way to encourage sustainability. “We’re both pretty green and like the idea of developing solar and wind energy.”


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Details, Details: Flashlight Promotion


During August, customers who sign-up to support SNAP will receive a solar-powered Energizer LED flashlight. The flashlight includes a spring carabiner clip for attaching to backpacks or belts. The flashlight’s solar panels charge even in low light; five hours of charge time gives you two hours of run time. A hand-crank on the flashlight provides a manual option; one minute of cranking provides four minutes of light.

To get a flashlight you'll need to agree to support SNAP with a minimum contribution of $2.50 a month for at least six months. Customers who already support SNAP can receive a flashlight if they agree to increase their contributions by at least $2.50 a month.
Sign-up at a PUD office or online, and learn more about SNAP power in Chelan County on the PUD website.

Photo below: The actual promo light -- slightly tweaked from the light I've tested but I'm crossing my fingers it's equally adept.