Incentives draw PUD customers to solar power

EVERETT — Solar energy is booming in Snohomish County.

The Snohomish County Public Utility District says solar energy capacity has increased by 70 percent in the past year.

Nearly 800 PUD customers have installed solar systems, which altogether can generate about 5 megawatts of energy. That is almost as much energy as the utility district hopes to get from each of the small hydroelectric projects it plans to build in Snoqualmie Valley.

The price of solar systems has dropped dramatically, to about half of what they cost a few years ago, said Leslie Moynihan, who manages the PUD’s solar program.

The PUD also subsidizes customer-purchased solar systems through its Solar Express program. Qualifying homeowners can get up to $2,000, and qualifying businesses can get up to $8,000. Federal and state financial incentives are also available.

The Solar Express program also offers technical help for people shopping for and installing solar electric systems.

In July, the PUD also announced it was giving a total of $100,900 to help two nonprofit groups and a school install solar electric systems.

The district gave a $40,000 grant to Everett-based HopeWorks, a job-training non-profit group. Stanwood Cooperative Preschool received a $22,400 grant. And Warm Beach Camp in Stanwood got a $38,500 grant. The three projects will add nearly 25 kilowatts of solar energy to the PUD’s power grid.

The money comes from the PUD’s Planet Power program, which has supported 32 local, small solar projects since 2009.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454;; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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