UTC May Regulate Solar Leasing in Washington

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) recently issued a formal policy, stating that the UTC may regulate companies that lease solar power systems as an electric companyWashington_State_Solar_Incentives_PV

What does this mean for Washingtonians?

More consumer protection.

Third party ownership (leasing) of solar power is not a viable option for people in Washington yet. The State currently encourages an ownership model for solar.

An “ownership model” for solar power means that the State wants its citizens to own the system, not a third party. Our legislators structured our solar incentives so that only property owners are able to collect them. One benefit of this model is that our State money stays in state with Washington citizens.

Technically you could lease a solar array today. The only problem is there are no solar leasing companies operating in Washington. They need access to the solar incentives to be able to make money. With leasing, our money would potentially flow to these corporations based out of State.

Leasing may come to Washington one day, or it might not. But if it does, the State has your back. Of course, as with everything politics and legal, there are grey areas. The UTC is asking the Legislature to better define just how much regulation is appropriate.

The commissioner said:

“If the Legislature chooses to expressly provide the commission jurisdiction over third-party owners, it should consider the level of regulation the commission should exert on the companies and the impact of the regulation on consumers and businesses. Specifically, we do not think it wise to employ full economic regulation or to exclude explicitly certain companies from this emerging market. Instead, we believe our primary focus should be on consumer protection and ensuring that the proper conditions are established for fair competition.”

It’s always nice to see a regulatory body say, “Hey, we want to protect people, but we don’t want to outright kill a growing industry in the process.”

We’ll let you know if the State Legislature decides to act this fall or wait until next year.

Think the Northwest is just too gloomy for solar? Think again!

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Believe it or not, the Northwest is actually an ideal climate for solar power. As native Northwesterners we know how hard that can be to imagine, but the system does not work in the way you might think.

It’s our milder summer climate (read warm but not scorching) that makes it possible for solar panels to absorb the light more efficiently. This coupled with what are considered to be long summer days is a big reason solar is an excellent choice in the NW.

Fun Fact: Did you know that because we are north of the 45th parallel that our days, from sun up to sun down, can last from 5am to 10pm in summertime? Even in the southern half of the country, where sun is more prolific in nature, days often last from 7am to 7pm in the summer months.

Even better did you know that solar energy is still collected on overcast days? Us fair skinned people know all too well that clouds are a deterrent, but you can still sunburn on a gray day. Because those sun rays are strong, even at a staggering 93 million miles away. They can easily penetrate any cloud cover and effect the surface of our earth, and us! If they can burn skin at that distance they can also activate your solar panels.

Meaning that although you will definitely collect more solar power on a sunny day, your panels will be working more of the year than you realize. Check out our web info page for some visual information on energy collection in our state. It will surprise you!

IMG_6207Fun Fact: The actual solar panel that sits on your roof is called a PV arrayPhoto = light and photons basically energy particles coming from sunlight; voltaic = producing a voltage or volts. Light producing energy!  (Want to see a visual of this? Click here.)

Now what is the benefit of this? Well simply put, you reduce power costs, or eliminate them, or actually earn credit from the power company. In most cases you earn credit during the summer months when sunlight availability is at its peak. Then in the winter months you use that credit up. (Envision months of bill free power over the holidays and when it’s coldest!  Could you get used to that?)

***The above is a simplified version of how the power company sees this arrangement. We recommend an in house consultation to clarify what terms you would be on with you utility should you choose to go solar.

IMG_4840We agree all that sounds great, but so much more impressive is value of doing the right thing for the environment in the process of lowering your personal costs. Solar is just as green as the northwest. It emanates zero greenhouse gas emissions in its energy producing process. And sunlight as you know is not a limited resource in the way that fossil fuels are, either.

Solar is a move toward sustainability and self-sufficiency that has both integrity and economy at its heart. It’s the right thing to do and a win-win for everyone. The question is not whether or not you can afford to go solar. Here in the Northwest, where is makes so much sense, the true question is how can you afford not to?

What Non-Profit Would You Nominate For A Free Solar System?

Free Solar Power System to be Awarded to Qualifying Community Organization in South Snohomish County

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The Solarize South County Community Coalition is seeking applications from qualified community organizations interested in having a donated solar photovoltaic system installed at their facility.  The donated equipment will serve as a community award as part of Solarize South County, a project of Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development (Northwest SEED) and Snohomish County PUD.

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Solarize South County is a citizen-led initiative to bring solar energy to homes and businesses in several communities. A team of volunteers from Lynnwood, Edmonds and Woodway, are leading the initiative, which is designed to help single family homeowners and small businesses purchase a solar PV array via a streamlined process and group discount.

Registration is now open (www.solarizewa.org/registration). Workshops are scheduled throughout the summer. The workshops help potential participants learn about the technical and economic aspects of solar energy and qualify them for a free site assessment for their home or small business.

Through a competitive bidding process, the Solarize South County Community Coalition pre-selected A&R Solar as the project’s solar installation team.  This contractor will provide solar systems at discounted rates to Solarize participants.  In addition, A&R Solar’s bid included donating a solar electric system to a local community organization if the Solarize project reaches its goal of 50 solar installations.

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Other program requirements:

Qualifying community organizations must be located in Solarize South County territory, defined by zip codes 98020, 98026, 98036, 98037, and 98043, must own their building or have a minimum 10-year lease, at least 75% solar access (to be confirmed by solar Contractor), have composition asphalt shingle or standing seam metal roof with at least 15 years of useful life remaining, and provide a highly visible site with good access for the public to see and learn about the solar energy system. More specific guideline information is available in the Request for Applications.

“Donating a system is our way of saying ‘thanks’ and giving back to a community that supported us, while also raising awareness to the fact that solar works in western Washington,” says Dave Kozin of A&R Solar.  “By setting aside a small portion of the profit from each project, each customer is essentially investing in an asset that will pay dividends to the community down the road.”

Commercial Solar Array

***The donated solar electric system will be approximately 5 kilowatts (kW) as possible and will include equipment and labor required for a rooftop installation.  The award is valued at roughly $20,000, with an additional value of up to $1,250 per year in electricity savings and renewable energy incentive payments.

The Request for Applications can be found at www.solarizewa.org.  The deadline for submitting an application is August 21, 2014.

 

About Northwest SEED: Northwest SEED is a non-profit organization that empowers community scale clean energy through expert guidance that combines technical support, community education and practical implementation.www.nwseed.org.

About Snohomish PUD: Snohomish County PUD is the second largest publicly-owned utility in Washington. It serves over 325,000 electric customers and 20,000 water customers. Its service territory covers 2,200 square miles, including all of Snohomish County and Camano Island.