Solar energy plans for Edmonds

EDMONDS — Sustainable Edmonds has designed a co-op solar energy project for the city, to allow renters, businesses and others to invest in solar.

Project plans include installing a community solar energy system in Edmonds atop the Frances Anderson Center, which houses the city’s parks and recreation department. The co-op would lease the site from the city. Last October, the City Council unanimously endorsed the idea of letting city-owned rooftops be used to capture solar electricity.

It is expected that the installation will produce up to 75,000 kilowatt hours annually, according to Chris Herman of Sustainable Edmonds, an organization that wants to help Edmonds move toward sustainable initiatives. That would produce enough power for 10 to 12 homes per year.

“This program allows everyone an opportunity to participate in affordable solar,” Herman said.

The proposed installation would provide a significant share of the center’s electrical use. It is estimated to save the city of Edmonds more than $30,000 over the next two decades.

Sustainable Edmonds has partnered with the for-profit business Tangerine Power in designing the solar power project. Tangerine Power, based in Seattle, develops community energy projects with local organizations.

This will be the first community-owned solar cooperative in Washington state, according to Stanley Florek, chief executive officer for Tangerine Power. Other projects have been developed by utilities.

Memberships in the cooperative are being sold as SunSlices, a Tangerine Power trademarked term, to individuals and businesses. Financial contributions to the project are projected to be returned to members by the year 2020. Shares are being sold for $1,000 through Tangerine Power’s website, www.tangerinepower.com.

“This is a group buying program,” Florek said. “It is one way to enable others to participate who otherwise could not — renters, businesses that lease their space, or those with trees blocking the necessary southern-facing exposure.”

Tangerine Power will manage the installation of the solar energy system. Florek estimates that the project will take three months to install and commission once the SunSlices are fully subscribed. The goal is to have 40 sold by the end of December 2011.

As of Dec. 23, 10 shares have been spoken for. In addition to shares, a $25 membership fee is required. Investors also must be customers of Snohomish County PUD.

While most of the shares have been purchased by individuals, PCC Natural Markets also signed on as the first business investor.

“The Edmonds Community Solar Cooperative is a unique public-private partnership that gives the Edmonds community an opportunity to come together to lay the foundation for a long-term, clean energy source for its future power needs,” said Matt Smith, store director of the Edmonds PCC. “This initiative deserves the support of every organization that enjoys the many benefits of being located here.”

Jump-starting the Edmonds project are state incentives for participants in community solar projects. While the initial investors supply the up-front capital, those members then receive payments for the value of the electricity produced over time in proportion to their investment in the project.

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