Solarize Magnolia aims to shrink your electricity bill

By Drew Powell

In an effort to reduce our carbon footprint one neighborhood at a time, the Magnolia-based environmental organization Sustainable Magnolia and the newly formed project Solarize Magnolia are working to provide and install roof solar panels for residents of Magnolia.

Doing this kind of thing on your own can take up to a year and a half to complete and can be costly. That’s why members of Solarize Magnolia are gathering homeowners for a group buy of the panels, so that the cost per installation is cheaper and would only take around three months.

Also, by coming together as a group, Solarize Magnolia can find the best solar panel contractor based on quality, capability and price.

The “solarize” program initially began in Portland, Ore. in 2009, where they were able to increase solar power usage by 400 percent. Program developers arrived in Queen Anne next. Working with Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development (SEED) they were able to help 30 Queen Anne residents buy solar panels for their homes in recent months.

“Solarize Magnola came from a unanimous decision by the Sustainable Magnolia board

in early 2011 to pursue being the next Solarize Seattle neighborhood,” Sustainable Magnolia founder Pam Lewis said.

Sustainable Magnolia started four years ago, with the mission   to educate and actively engage citizens to help mitigate the climate crisis and to promote a sustainable quality of life in their community, Lewis said.

Since then, they have had various grant-funded projects, such as bringing regular and compostable recycling to the Farmers Market in Magnolia as well as Magnolia’s annual Summerfest event.

A major part of the Solarize Magnolia project is to educate residents on solar power. The group will hold four free introductory workshops, taking place at the Discovery Park Visitor Center and the Magnolia Public Library on Saturday, July 23; Wednesday, August 24; Saturday, September 24; and Thursday, October 20.

During these workshops people will get to learn about the project, including how it works, why they chose to do it and more importantly, learn about the various tax incentives available.

“It’s a great opportunity for someone who has thought about it [Solar Power] but is not really sure how it works,” Solarize Magnolia committee member Kelly Fahlman said.

As for the cost, Fahlman says every project is different.

“It depends on the size and slope of the roof. Every property would cost a different amount.”

As an added bonus, the contractor will give homeowners a free site assessment of their property and see how much it will cost.

Plus, the tax incentives, including federal tax incentives, a Washington State sales tax exemption, renewable energy production incentives, and City Light net metering should lower the cost significantly. There is a 30-percent federal income tax credit for the cost of the solar technology installations. The sale of solar electric systems in Washington that produce less than 10 kilowatts is exempt from state sales taxes. Washington residences, businesses and local governments that generate solar energy receive a base-level production incentive of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour. This amount is capped at $5,000 a year. Any unused solar energy goes back onto the City Light grid, making a homeowner’s electric meter run backward and lowering their electric bill.

On June 30, the Solarize Steering committee (the people who write up the requests for contractors) submitted a proposal through Northwest SEED to solar contractors, announcing the project and the deadline as mid-July.

So, as of right now Solarize Magnolia is getting the word out to interested homeowners by putting up posters around the neighborhood and advertising at local businesses. The program will also be on display at this year’s Magnolia Summerfest on July 29 and 30 with at the Solarize Magnolia Booth containing further information and solar equipment.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the group is welcome. While they currently have 22 volunteers and 12 members on the Steering Committee there is still a need for more.

If you are interested in joining Solar Magnolia you can register through their website at starting July 18. Interested parties must also attend one of the organization’s workshops.

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Appeared in Queen Anne/Magnolia News on July 13, 2011.

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