Community solar project to be placed at The Harbor School

Vashon Solar LLC is poised to install the Island’s first community solar project, an array that will be perched next to The Harbor School and could eventually kick out enough power to heat three houses.

Evan Leonard, solar project manager at Artisan Electric and a board member for Vashon Solar LLC, said the group is thrilled to have found a spot for the array, which will be installed in two phases this winter and spring.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming and a lot of hard work.”

The group, led by Vashon architect Gib Dammann, has been searching for months for a site for a community-based system, racing to get a project installed so as to take full advantage of generous state incentives slated to end in 2020. Another group, Vashon Community Solar, a project spearheaded by The Backbone Campaign, is also working to develop a site.

Leonard said the site at The Harbor School is ideal. The array will be situated on the ground on the south side of the building, where on a sunny day it would have 98 percent sun exposure — meaning that “from sun up to sun down 98 percent of the time the sun is hitting that surface,” Leonard said.

“That’s pretty rare. We’ve got a lot of trees on Vashon,” he said.

The project will be funded by Islanders investing $5,000 to $35,000 each, Leonard said. The group expects to have about 20 investors, ponying up a total of $250,000.

A federal tax credit gives each investor a 30 percent construction refund for various green energy projects, meaning that an investor who provides $5,000 toward the project can reduce his or her tax bill by $1,500.

The state Legislature, meanwhile, sweetened the pot with a bill it passed two years ago in an effort to stimulate a solar panel manufacturing industry: For every kilowatt hour produced by a system manufactured in the state and placed at a public building, the entity that created the project receives $1.08 — or 10 times the market value of the electricity — to be divvied up among its investors.

The Harbor School is private but its building and land are owned by the Vashon Island School District. The array will benefit the private school, not the district, Leonard said. But when the school’s lease is up, “It’ll be a good leverage point for the district,” he said.

Finding investors won’t be a problem, he added. “Already several people have shown a high level of interest,” he said.


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