Competing against 31 other cities and 50 projects, Northwest Seed’s Solarize Snoqualmie program has won the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) 2016 Municipal Excellence Award in the category “making a difference in your environment.” The award recognized the dramatic increase in homes with solar panels achieved in the City of Snoqualmie and nearby communities following five […]
Written by Briana Gerdeman
Woodinville residents will have a way to get solar power installed cheaply and easily, and the first chance to get involved is this week.
The project, called Solarize Woodinville, will be managed by the nonprofit Northwest SEED (Sustainable Energy for Economic Development.) The first Solarize campaign was started by a grassroots group in Portland, and now Solarize campaigns have spread across the country. Northwest SEED has completed 18 Solarize campaigns resulting in more that 800 installations of solar panels, said Jill Eikenhorst, project coordinator for Northwest SEED. Eikenhorst spoke about Solarize Woodinville at last week’s City Council meeting.
A Solarize Woodinville Campaign Training and Kickoff will be held Thursday, Jan. 28 from 6-9 p.m. at 21 Acres in Woodinville, located at 13701 NE 171st Street. Anyone who’s interested can RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-457-5403. The meeting is open to all in the 98072 and 98077 area codes, but is primarily geared toward people who want to serve as organizers, or solar ambassadors.
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Winter in Western Oregon may seem an odd time to consider the benefits of solar power, but industry experts say a couple of compelling financial reasons should prompt residents to think now about installing solar panels on their homes. Unless Congress acts, federal solar investment tax credits to encourage the installation of residential photovoltaic solar energy systems will expire Dec. 31, 2016
To qualify for the credits, which save taxpayers money, the systems must be installed and operating by the end of next year, said Steve Mital, sustainability director at the University of Oregon.
A year from now may seem like a long time, but it can take several months to select a system, hire a contractor, get permits and have the solar unit installed, he said.
“Now is the time,” Mital said. “The sun is setting on federal tax credits.”
The federal solar income tax credit was enacted in 2005 and renewed by Congress three years later.
Solar industry supporters worry that the Republican-controlled Congress will not renew the credit for residential systems, allowing it to expire at the end of next year. The tax credit for commercial systems will remain, though it will drop to 10 percent from 30 percent by 2017.
There’s another reason for homeowners to give solar energy immediate attention: If they attend a solar workshop on Monday, they could save 10 percent on the installation, or about $1,200, on a typical residential system compared to what it would cost if they purchased one on their own, Mital said.
The workshop, at the University of Oregon, is being offered by Solarize U, which was created by Mital’s office and is managed by Northwest SEED, a nonprofit organization that promotes clean energy in the Pacific Northwest. The event is free, but registration is required.
Since 2006, Washington State has offered electric customers an incentive for producing, clean, reliable renewable energy — such as solar. This program has encouraged over 7,000 residents and businesses to invest in and install solar in their communities. Utilities administer and pay this state incentive to customers. In exchange, the utilities receive a tax credit equal to the incentive payments made. This credit is capped at .5% or $100,000 of a utility’s taxable power sales and payments to customers are calculated on an annual basis. For more details on the program, go here.
by EVAN PAPPAS, Snoqualmie Valley Record Reporter
Now, more than any other time, might be the best opportunity for Snoqualmie residents to install solar panels on their homes. The city of Snoqualmie is partnering with Northwest Wind and Solar and Northwest SEED (Sustainable Energy for Economic Development) to bring affordable installations of solar energy systems to the community.
Multiple incentive programs are currently running, which add up to approximately a 50-percent discount after the first year.
Nicole Sanders, Associate Planner for the city of Snoqualmie, said that the limited availability of these incentives are getting people to look into solar more actively than ever before.
“I think what’s really bubbling up right now is a sense of urgency because the federal tax credit expires next year, in December of 2016, and so it’s really your last, best chance to get a huge discount on solar,” Sanders said. “So there’s that and the state production incentive, plus no sales tax, plus net metering and the (Solarize WA) discount which is embedded in the pricing.”
The way each incentive has stacked on the other has made this an enticing opportunity for many community members.
“Fifty percent at once is a huge deal and it’s an estimated four-and-a-half to five-year payback if you use Washington-made components,” Sanders said. “There’s almost no investment that I know of that has that quick of a payoff.”
After receiving a grant for this project from the Washington State Department of Commerce, the city
began organizing and spreading the word about the program. Snoqualmie contracted the non-profit organization Northwest SEED to help lead the campaign. Jill Eikenhorst, Project Coordinator at the nonprofit, said they have helped other communities with solar projects and their experience has helped them work with Snoqualmie.