ARLINGTON — In a nod to Earth Day, Snohomish Public Utility District customers can buy into solar energy generated in Arlington starting Monday.
One unit, or about one-fifth of a solar panel, costs $120.
The “community solar” program aims to allow those who can’t afford their own rooftop solar unit, don’t have an adequate roof or live in rented housing to support the development of solar power.
Customers can purchase up to 130 units for $15,600.
That initial investment will be regained in roughly eight years through rebates on PUD bills and state clean energy incentives. For each unit, the annual savings would total $16.50 — $4.50 in bill credits and $12 in state reimbursement.
“It’s a way to invest in the environment but get a little return on your investment,” project manager Scott Gibson said.
But don’t count on this as your retirement plan, project manager Suzy Oversvee said.
The return over the entirety of the 20-year project would be $186 for one unit. For 130 units, the return would be $24,180.
Estimated return on solar unit purchase
Individual units have an eight-year payback period through rebates on PUD bills and state clean-energy incentives.
|Number of units||Purchase price||January||July||Annual total bill credit (20 years)||Annual WA incentive (up to first 8 years)||20-year return|
Scenarios are for demonstration only. Figures are subject to change based on actual solar energy production.
Source: Snohomish County Public Utility District
The units can also be purchased as a gift, so long as the recipient is a Snohomish PUD customer.
Customers can choose to sell their units. The PUD won’t regulate resale prices, Gibson said.
If a customer moves within the county, their solar credit will move with them. It’s tied to the customer, not the house.
The 2-acre solar panel array is just west of the Arlington Municipal Airport, in the Arlington-Marysville Manufacturing Industrial Center. It is home to 8,100 units, PUD spokesperson Aaron Swaney said. That’s enough to power about 50 homes annually.
Construction began in February and is set to finish this month, Swaney said. The panels will be energized May 1. Seattle-based A&R Solar built the field for $900,000.
The solar panels are part of a micro-grid that will serve as back-up power for the PUD, allowing it to rely less on diesel generators during power outages.
Anyone can request a tour of the site, Swaney said.
The community solar project is part of a larger PUD mission to make renewable energy economically feasible for public utilities. In order for renewable energy projects to be affordable, districts need to find a way to make batteries pay for themselves, Gibson said.
“We know renewable energy and solar are part of our future, so this is our way of experimenting first-hand,” Gibson said. “It’s about reducing technical challenges and costs of PUDs purchasing batteries.”
The PUD also is testing two Nissan Leafs that can charge directly from their solar-powered micro-grid. The vehicles aren’t yet commercial products, Gibson said.
About 10 percent of the solar project, or 810 units, is reserved for a low-income pilot program. The details of that pilot will be ironed out within the next few months, Oversvee said.
As of mid-April, Oversvee said the community solar program had about 800 customers on a wait list. A link to purchase units will go live on the PUD’s website Monday.
Julia-Grace Sanders: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.