No better time than now to go solar in Washington

COURTESY TO THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 13, 2013 

Spring is here and our days are getting longer and sunnier. Now is the perfect time to go solar in Western Washington. Modern solar energy systems not only work well in our climate, there are compelling incentives available that make Washington among the most attractive places in the country to go solar. But the clock is ticking on these incentives, and the best time to act is now.

People often ask how solar energy can work in a place that is often grey and overcast. You may be surprised to learn that the solar viability of Western Washington is not that much different than sunny California. The simple reason is that while solar panels like sunlight, they do not like heat. When the temperature is low, the voltage in a panel stays high. Conversely, when the temperature is high, the voltage drops. Without getting into too much technical speak, suffice to say that while the southern climates have more sun, due to the heat, their actual solar electricity production is not a great deal more than ours. Sacramento exceeds the Puget Sound area by only 12 percent to 15 percent. Even in winter when it is grey and cold outside, solar panels produce electricity by converting the sun's radiation quietly, without noise or pollution. And the rain is actually our friend, for it naturally cleans and washes the panels, so they will be ready when the sun comes out.

It is not just our northwest climate that works in your favor. Going solar in your home and business now can be a financially rewarding decision. This is because there are valuable financial incentives available. These include:

Federal Tax Incentive: 30 percent off the total cost of the project can be taken as a federal tax credit; a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your tax bill. This expires in 2016.

State Production Incentive: If you use Washington-made solar modules and inverters, you will be paid 54 cents for every kilowatt hour the system produces. This is about six times what you are presently paying your utility. This production-based incentive expires in 2020.

Taking the above together, it is no wonder why the number of people who have gone solar in Washington have more than doubled in the last two years. But, the incentives do have a time limit. This creates the situation that waiting for lower costs and more advanced technology will literally cost you money. A good strategy to take is to go solar now and use the incentives to pay off your system; where after you will reap the benefits of free electricity from the sun, which has no time limit. Remember, having a solar energy system will protect you from rising electricity rates. Also, studies have shown that homes listed as green have higher asking prices and sell faster in the Pacific Northwest than "comparable" homes.

Sounds good, but does solar work for you personally? The best way to find out is to have a professional come to your home or business and do a site evaluation. The consultant will look for such things as south facing access to sunlight, roof orientation and the condition of your roof. He or she will also work with you on creating a system that fits your budget and energy goals.

So go solar now and make a difference. It will help not just the environment and the local community, but your own pocketbook. As explained by Bellingham native Charles Maxwell, who recently went solar, "what more can you want?"

SOLAR ENERGY WORKSHOP

Go Solar Bellingham is hosting an informational workshop from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at RE Sources, 2309 Meridian St.

The workshop will cover how well the technology works in the Pacific Northwest, the financial incentives available to help reduce the up-front costs, and the production incentives that pay you for the electricity that you produce. Those attending and deciding to go solar will also be able to take advantage of the special campaign discount.

You can register online at GoSolarBellingham.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joe Deets is president of Community Solar Solutions, which is spearheading the Go Solar Bellingham campaign. Community Solar Solutions is a subsidiary of the non-profit organization Community Energy Solutions. Its efforts have led to the installation of more than 140 solar energy systems, comprising more than 600 kilowatts of installed capacity, on homes and businesses in Washington State. For details visit gosolarwashington.com.

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