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Mason County PUD 1 kicks off solar project

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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Mason County PUD 1 customers will have one more reason to look forward to the sun this summer.

Last month, the Potlatch-based PUD officially opened its community solar project, allowing about 117 customers to access solar-powered electricity.

"Clean, renewable energy is in the forefront of everyone's mind right now," said Kristin Masteller, director of employee and public relations for the PUD. "With climate change, everyone is looking for a solution."

The PUD hosted a ribbon-cutting for the project, a garden of solar panels on top of the PUD's warehouse in Hoodsport, on Tuesday. Program participants and PUD commissioners were in attendance to learn more about the program and commemorate the event.

Masteller said the PUD has been exploring the possibility of a community solar garden for several months. She sent out feasibility surveys to customers last year, asking if they would support the project. She said the response was overwhelmingly positive.

The community solar project allows customers to buy solar units located on top of the PUD building instead of installing their own on individual homes. This saves money for the customers and ensures the solar panels are placed somewhere with ample sunlight, Masteller said.

The PUD built 860 units on its roof. Masteller said the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, run through the Bonneville Power Administration, helped the PUD get its project up and running for free.

Customers could begin registering for a chance to purchase solar panels in March. Applicants were then randomly selected, and allowed to purchase up to 10 units at $100 a piece.

"We had so much interest that we tried to get as many people as possible involved," Masteller said. "It was great that we were able to get as many as we did."

Brad and Deb Collette of Hoodsport, who are participating in the program, said they decided to enter because they didn't see a downside to the project.

Deb said the couple has always thought about solar power, but knew it wouldn't work as well on their home.

"So this is a good deal for everyone," Brad said.

Under current Washington state law, customers can receive incentives to participate in solar programs; PUD 1 participants can receive $1.08 per kilowatt-hour.

Masteller said this is greater than the $0.54 incentive homeowners who have solar on their own roofs receive.

The state law that grants these incentives, which come in the form of a federal tax credit, is set to expire in 2020, so Masteller said the PUD is waiting to see if the law is renewed before expanding the project.

PUD l's community solar program produces about 19.25 kilowats per year, about the same as the size of two home solar systems. The PUD is limited on the amount of electricity it can produce by state law, which is based on the annual electric sales.

Based on this, Masteller said customers can expect to earn their original investment back in about four years.

Greg Texeria of Union said he decided to participate in the program to continue to use safer, cleaner energy.

"Solar power is renewable, so it's definitely the way to go," he said. "They already do so much with hydroelectric in this state, but this is just one additional way to provide savings and minimize our footprint."

Currently, PUD l's resource portfolio is about 88 percent hydroelectric power, according to its website.

Masteller said the small PUD is about "middle of the pack" for state PUDs that are testing solar power.

Last December, PUD 3 in Shelton officially opened its solar program. The PUD built about 2,900 solar units, allocated to 110 customers.

The system was expected to generate enough electricity to power seven homes in Mason County.

For more information on PUD l's solar project, visit www.solar.masonpudl.org.



Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: June 16, 2016



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