Queen Anne looks toward the sun

A group of green-energy believers are aiming to make Queen Anne a solar hotbed.

Northwest SEED, Sustainable Queen Anne, and Sunergy Systems are working together to educate residents about the benefits of using solar power in their neighborhoods. The groups want to be a catalyst for a number of residential solar installations in the Seattle area.

They say that by pulling together, solar-power enthusiasts can beat the high cost of solar panels and make the shift to renewable energy sources more affordable. The program, known as Solarize Queen Anne, features a bulk-buy program where residents can purchase solar systems at a discounted price. Under the leadership of Sustainable Queen Anne, the limited-time Solarize campaign has a goal of installing more than 200 kilowatts of solar energy in Queen Anne by summer of 2011. Northwest SEED, which stands for “sustainable energy and economic development,” is helping to coordinate the project.

Sustainable Queen Anne is a group of volunteers increasing awareness of the social, natural and economic sustainability of Queen Anne neighborhoods. Group co-chairwoman Heather Trim says that they partnered with Northwest SEED and started a community outreach.

“The project is a pilot of all of Seattle, and Queen Anne is its guinea pig,” Trim said.

Since the campaign’s launch in January, Queen Anne residents have attended informational meetings and have begun receiving free solar site assessments from project partner Sunergy Systems. The full-service solar design and installation firm was selected after a competitive process was undertaken last fall to find the best partner for the project.

Susan Hautala, the first Queen Anne resident to contract for a solar system through the Solarize Queen Anne campaign, said on the “Solar Washington” website that solarizing has been something on her family’s to-do list for a long time, but it has been hard to figure out how to get started.

“Working with the Solarize Queen Anne team has been fast, efficient, and informative,” she wrote. “We’re eagerly looking forward to the next step – installation!”

Trim said Sustainable Queen Anne has been busy doing outreach in the community and running workshops. She said that residents can place solar panels on virtually all structures, including garages, houses, and even apartment buildings. The workshops teach residents the basics of solar power. For those homeowners interested, Sunergy does an assessment of their property, calculating how much the site would get throughout the day and figuring out the impact on the homeowner’s current electricity bill.

“They give you a detailed assessment and talk to you about your different options,” Trim said.

Property owners who sign up for a solar system will receive a 10-percent discount on the price of the system for being part of the project. After the campaign reaches a goal of installing enough systems to produce 25,000 kilowatts per year, the price of the equipment will decline. The more homeowners who sign up, the more the system will drop in price.

But time is short. Interested property owners have until Earth Day, April 22, to sign up for the program.

In June, Northwest SEED will begin selecting two new neighborhoods in the Seattle area to develop a sustainable solar system. Some Magnolia residents are hoping that their neighborhood might be next. If Magnolia were chosen as one of the next two neighborhoods, Northwest SEED would establish a steering committee that would select a solar installer and then begin the public outreach and education process. Northwest SEED hopes that interested property owners would be identified and installations of solar panels could begin in April of next year.

To help Magnolia become the next neighborhood, you can contact solar@sustainablemagnolia. You can participate on a steering committee or find out more about installing solar in your own property.

Sustainable Queen Anne is also beginning an online survey through the end of this month to assess the opinions of residents on features of the neighborhood, as well as current levels of sustainability aspects of people’s every day lives. Residents are asked to complete the survey by April 30. Results will be posted on June 1. You can access the online survey at http://app.fluidsurveys.com/s/SQAsurvey/

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Appeared in Queen Anne/Magnolia News on April 6, 2011.

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