Though it's just a few minutes from Seattle, Vashon Island has always remained a community apart, rural and artsy. Now an environmental-research group...

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Though it’s just a few minutes from Seattle, Vashon Island has always remained a community apart, rural and artsy. Now an environmental-research group is proposing that the island further separate itself by producing all its own energy.

The Institute for Environmental Research and Education, an island think tank with an impressive list of financial backers including the Bullitt Foundation and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s investment firm, Vulcan, figures the goal could be met by 2015.

It contends aggressive spending on conservation measures could topple the conventional wisdom that alternative energy is too expensive, and that it could actually save the island’s 11,000 residents about $5 million a year.

The 37-square-mile island is only reachable by air or sea, and electricity and natural gas are brought to the island via underwater lines.

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Stage one: Change every light bulb to a compact fluorescent, add insulation to the many year-round homes that were originally built as vacation cottages and buy new energy-efficient appliances.

Together, those steps would eliminate 70 percent of the island’s energy consumption, according to an institute study. But unlike most conservation pushes, the light bulbs, insulation and appliances would be paid for by a new public-utility district and installed by professionals.

Stage two: Install wind, solar and other renewable power solutions — including biomass plants to capture energy from the byproducts of the island’s livestock.

The conservation measures and new energy sources would cost roughly $40 million. But the institute estimates the energy savings over the life of the equipment would be more than $95 million.