Incentives make community solar projects affordable | Letter to the Editor
April 17, 2012 · 1:47 PM
A recent letter to the editor suggested researching the solar power market before investing. (“Study market before investing,” April 11.) Good advice. Joe Yarkin correctly pointed out the wide difference in solar pricing. However, the letter did not include references to the nature of a “Community Solar” project, or the benefits of Washington State government incentives associated with projects that use in-state manufactured components.
If your home has good solar exposure, then now is a great time to buy. But the majority of the homes on this island do not have good solar exposure. Further, there are structural, water-proofing, aesthetic and other issues to consider. Community solar projects provide an alternative.
Community Solar projects are owned by members of the community, bringing together people who want to support solar and participate in a modest investment model. The array is installed on public property where there is adequate sunshine.
Financial incentives specific to Washington State are intended to help create green industry here. Out-of-state components are markedly less expensive than components manufactured in Washington. However, if you use out-of-state products (30 cents per community solar kilowatt-hour) you do not qualify for the more generous incentives the state provides when you use in-state products ($1.08 per community solar kilowatt-hour). Therefore, in-state component incentives pay back your investment at 3.6 times the out-of-state rate. This counter balances the premium you initially pay for in-state products.
Community solar start-up costs are substantial. However, as the community solar array grows, the return becomes stronger. The more the participation, the better the payback.
The points above, plus specific tax considerations, help defray the additional costs that exist. A community solar project is different from a residential installation. It is comparing apples to oranges.
— Gib Dammann and Holly Godard, Vashon Solar LLC