Solar Tour features 11 Island properties

In the last year, solar power generated on Vashon has tripled: Eight or nine businesses and homes have installed solar arrays since last fall, according to an Island electrical contractor who installs arrays.

This Saturday, Islanders have a chance to see 11 systems in action, at Vashon’s fifth annual Solar Tour, sponsored by a coalition of local, regional and national groups and companies.

From small, simple arrays to the largest on-the-grid solar array on Vashon, the sites on the tour are diverse — but each proves that solar power works, even in a rainy climate like the Northwest’s. Four of the buildings are located in the core of town.

The time’s never been better to go solar, organizers say — governmental financial incentives are at an unprecedented high. And while putting solar arrays on a home can cost tens of thousands of dollars, solar technology is cheaper than it’s ever been, said Jason Williams, a tour organizer and an Island electrical contractor who specializes in solar installations.

“This tour will give people a chance to see solar working, ... so people start imagining it and picturing it in their own house,” Williams said. His company, Artisan Electric, is licensed to install solar arrays that link into the larger electrical grid. Some systems are “off the grid,” meaning they’re not connected to the larger electrical network, but Williams encourages solar installers to stay on the grid, where they can return excess electricity to the network and be paid for their power production.

He hopes the tour will make solar more accessible to those who know little about it.

“I live, breathe, work and dream solar every day, and I think everybody knows about it, but I go out and talk to people, and the vast majority of people don’t know that it exists and they can do it,” Williams said.

It’s critical that people “go solar” in the coming years, he said. “We have the resource, which is the sun; we have the technology, and we can all generate a portion of our power.”

If people don’t go solar, the increasing demands for power will have to be met by electricity generated by coal-powered and natural gas-powered plants, he said.

“That’s not at all sustainable,” Williams said. “We have to change the way power is generated.”

The reward for installing solar arrays goes beyond the environmental benefit. A federal program gives people rebates on solar arrays — currently up to 30 percent of the total cost of installation — while the state pays solar power generators per kilowatt they produce, according to Williams.

Saturday is a chance, he said, for Islanders to see others’ solar setups and consider making the switch themselves. Islanders can pick up a map of the sites on the tour at the Land Trust Building on Bank Road. During the day, Williams and other experts on electricity, passive solar design and solar thermal systems will speak at the Land Trust Building.

The tour takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3. Visit to learn more.

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