The economy may be down but solar energy in Washington is looking up.
In 2009, nearly 200 Puget Sound Energy customers installed solar systems, making it the fastest-growing year for local renewable energy for the agency.
The growth raises the total number of grid-connected solar systems to 516, up from 100 solar power systems that were online with PSE in early 2007. This represents a growth rate of around 500 percent. PSE said the generating capacity of the solar systems also increased dramatically, rising to 2 megawatts. It said the combined network of PSE customer solar arrays is the largest producer of renewable energy from the sun in Washington.
Cal Shirley, vice president of Energy Efficiency Services for PSE, said two things made the increase possible: customer enthusiasm for renewable energy, and federal and state incentives.
For example, Washington has a production payment program, administered by PSE. The program pays residential customers for the solar power they produce, with payments based on a sliding scale that rewards customers for buying Washington-made solar modules and power inverters. The scale ranges from a base rate of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour to 54 cents per kilowatt hour for systems incorporating made-in-Washington solar modules and inverters.
In 2009, PSE distributed cash payments of $170,000, compared to $86,000 distributed in 2008 when PSE customers had approximately 325 home and small business solar systems. The growth in residential and small business renewable energy systems (including solar, wind and micro-hydro) is seen across PSE’s service area. King County has 138 systems while Kitsap County has 64 and Jefferson County has 78. For more information, visit www.PSE.com.