Small Town News
PUD 1 to offer community solar program
Mason County PUD 1 customers will soon be able to harness the power of the sim.
The utility district opened registration on Tuesday for a new community solar initiative on its website.
PUD 1 plans on selling units for $100 apiece through a lottery, and has 860 units available.
Project manager Kristen Masteller said interest in the community solar project has been overwhelming.
"Customers care about participating in a really cool carbon-free energy project," she said.
As of Wednesday morning, Masteller said 50 percent of the program's registration was full.
"Hopefully the rest of it sells by early next week," she said. "Until then, I am going to be anxious."
The panels, which have the power equivalent to two residential systems, will be installed on the roof of the PUD 1 warehouse on U.S. Highway 101 in Potlatch.
The location was chosen for its solar exposure, visibility and cost-effective proximity to existing electrical infrastructure, a news release said.
Masteller said she expects the system to be generating electricity by June at the latest.
Customers who invest in the project will see a full return in four years, Masteller said. Through the year 2020, participants will also receive a Washington State Production Incentive specifically for community solar programs, which is double the incentive for personal systems on a single home.
The life of the solar project is estimated to be 20 years, but PUD 1 Commissioner Jack Janda said the utility district could expand its solar reach in the coming years.
"We felt that we had get out in front of this," he said. "People want to have ownership in this solar project."
Janda said customers shouldn't expect to get rich by investing in the community solar project.
"This is not a gold mine because Washington already has the low-cost hydropower as well as the nuclear plant â€” it is not like you're going to go out here and make a killing," he said. "This is more of feeling of responsibility to contribute to a solution to what we are doing to the environment."
Mason County PUD 3 launched a similar shared solar program last year that has been considered by the district a success.
PUD 3's system is larger and has more than 2,000 total units to provide to customers, but the theory is the same.
The utility district also sold units for $100 and had a selection process through a lottery. Customers were limited to 10 units apiece.
Janda said the reaction by PUD 3 customers was incentive to experiment with solar in his own district.
"I am excited mostly because this has been something that has been going on and there is a lot of interest in it," he said. "This is more affordable than doing it themselves and they can see it for themselves and it is theirs."
PUD 1 serves 5,100 electric meters along the U.S. Highway 101 corridor from the Skokomish Valley to Jefferson County.
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