The Gift of Solar Power at the Seattle Program Center

Mountaineers Super Volunteers Charlie and Carol Michel recently gave a significant donation to The Mountaineers in order to install solar panels on the roof of our Seattle Program Center. Learn about the project and join us in thanking the Michels for their very generous gift.
Amber Dygert Amber Dygert
Director of Development
June 29, 2018
The Gift of Solar Power at the Seattle Program Center
Charlie & Carol Michel on the summit of Mt. Rainier for a Mountaineers climb. Courtesy of Charlie Michel.

Within 5 minutes of meeting Charlie and Carol Michel, it’s clear  they care very deeply about three things: sea kayaking, The Mountaineers, and our collective carbon footprint.

Their love for the outdoor runs deep. They’ve earned 20 badges, including Super Volunteer in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. They’re also Peak Society members, qualified youth leaders, and sea kayak committee members, and enjoy bicycle touring in their "free time". They affectionately refer to The Mountaineers as their second family, having made some of their closest friends through trips on the water. 

In addition to their love of the outdoors, Charlie and Carol share a passion for conservation – specifically reducing their carbon footprint. The roof of their Bremerton home boasts 46 solar panels, which provide enough energy to power their entire home. An electric car efficiently transports them and their kayak to all of their favorite PNW watering holes. They have cut down on travel by plane. By significantly altering their lifestyle, Charlie and Carol have minimized their environmental impact.

The Michels made all of these personal investments while also quietly setting aside money in a Donor Advised Fund in order to make a significant contribution to an organization that they care about to go solar. We are that lucky organization!

Supporting a strategic priority

When Charlie and Carol first approached us in December with their idea to put a full solar system on the roof of the Seattle Program Center, they couldn’t have come at a better time. The Mountaineers were in the midst of a strategic planning process, in which our community showed strong support for investments in conservation and carbon footprint reduction

The Michels exemplify so much the ‘who’ of The Mountaineers: we are leaders—adventurers, educators, and conservationists committed not only to our individual pursuits, but to the collective power and strength of our community and its love for wild places.

When people get outside, they create a lifelong connection to place. We will fiercely protect the places we know and love. Advocating for our wild places has been core to our mission since the start of our organization, and our recent strategic planning process further underscored the importance of these values. When asked about the single most important point of focus for The Mountaineers in the next 3-5 years, our members mentioned conservation and advocacy more than any other initiative. With a very generous donation, Charlie and Carol helped us realize these goals. 

Solar power relieves pressure on the hydropower grid

Investing in solar at our Seattle Program Center is a way to further our conservation outcomes by reducing our organizational carbon footprint and striving to be an organization that exemplifies sustainable practices. 

Solarizing our power use at the Seattle Program Center will help reduce our carbon footprint in the immediate term, and also further our conservation mission longer-term.

The Program Center receives power from Seattle City Light. The Skagit and Pend Oreille Hydropower projects provide approximately half of those energy needs. The remainder comes from a mix of energy sources, including a large portion of hydropower and a small percentage of oil and natural gas (from Bonneville Power Administration). While hydropower is a low carbon form of energy and Seattle has well run projects, hydropower is not without impact. Increased adoption of solar and diversification of renewable energy sources beyond hydropower (including retirement of those hydropower facilities having the biggest environmental impacts) provides benefits for river systems, fish, and the landscapes we hold dear as recreationists.

Project Timeline & Impact

We have hired an installation firm, and began the process to secure licences and permits, which we anticipate will mean we can start installing the solar panels mid-August and finish by mid-October. We expect the system will be on and energized by the end of October.

Right now, we do not  anticipate a major disruption to business as usual at our Seattle Program Center. At beginning of installation in mid-August, we'll have one day of busy delivery on East side of building with staging of materials on the ground level. The next day a boom truck will lift majority of materials to the roof. A scissor lift will be located on the east side of the building to move people, tools, equipment, and remaining materials up and down as needed throughout the installation.

Work on the roof will be similar to people walking around the roof to inspect roof-mounted HVAC installations. A three to four person crew will perform installation 7am–3pm Mon – Thurs. We do not anticipate heavy equipment noises as historically the company we are working with has not received complaints from other customers.

If you're a volunteer planning to use the roof for your course, we will work to coordinate access to the flat section of roof adjacent to the north wall.  

More details to come.

Thank you Charlie & Carol! 



We might have to have to do an entire series on the fascinating lives of Charlie & Carol. In our conversations about the solar panels, we learned the following fun facts:

  • In Carol's case, a love for the outdoors is in her blood. Her father, Tom Campbell, taught the Whittaker brothers, Jim and Lou, how to climb and served as an instructor in the 10th Mountain Brigade during WWII (in which the Whittakers were enlisted). Tom still climbed after losing his right arm in a climbing accident at Camp Hale. During her childhood and teen years Carol hiked with him and could occasionally find herself on the end of a rope.
  • Carol's dad was also one of the original founding members of REI. He held membership card #00000025!  
  • Right now, Charlie is on a 3-week kayak trip to cover 220 nautical-miles along the coast of Vancouver Island. 
  • Charlie is an American Canoe Association Open Coastal Kayak Instructor and has contributed numerous photos and route-place descriptions and edits for the Mountaineers database.