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Snohomish PUD program manager Suzy Oversvee talks at a March 21 open house at the Lakewood/Smokey Point Library about a new program from the utility district.

 

Snohomish PUD customers that are unable to put solar panels on their home can still support renewable energy with the PUD’s new Community Solar program.

Participants will be able to buy 20 years worth of a part of a solar panel and receive a monthly credit on their bill equal to the power generated.

Each ‘solar unit’ will cost $120 and Snohomish PUD officials expect a unit will pay for itself in about eight years. The units represent a fifth of a solar panel.

The utility district plans to start selling the units on April 22 and held an open house about the new program at the Lakewood/Smokey Point Library on March 21.

Community solar programs have been tried throughout the country, said Suzy Oversvee, program manager at Snohomish PUD.

“They work similar to community gardens, where if you don’t have space at your home or would rather not have your own, you can go to a community garden,” she said.

Although programs like this exist elsewhere, this is new territory for Snohomish PUD.

“This is our first utility-led community solar project. We’re considering it a pilot and seeing how it goes and how customers respond to it,” said Oversvee.

The goal was to try and provide a way for Snohomish PUD customers that couldn’t put panels onto their home an affordable and available option they could try.

“We want it to benefit people who currently don’t have solar on their homes,” said Oversvee.

The district’s Community Solar program also helps the utility district in its goal to support renewable energy, she said.

The solar array will be housed at the Arlington Microgrid project, which is expected to begin construction this summer.

The PUD’s micro-grid property by the Arlington Airport is meant to store a miniature electric grid that can support services in the event of an emergency and test a number of different energy technologies as well.

The Community Solar program is part of the plan for the area.

In total it will be able to support 8,100 ‘units’ to be sold to the public.

“We are estimating each unit will produce 75 kilowatt hours per year,” said Oversvee, although the amount produced each month will vary based on the weather.

Snohomish PUD will provide a credit of $0.06 per kilowatt hour produced and a state incentive will provide an additional $0.16 per kilowatt hour for up to the first eight years.

Because of maintenance concerns, the program is only scheduled for 20 years, in part so that the PUD could keep the price affordable at $120, said Oversvee.

At that point the panels will still be under PUD ownership and the district officials will decide what to do at that time.

There is a maximum purchase of 130 units for a single household and the recipients of the benefits must be PUD customers.

Customers that are already part of the net metering program or already have solar panels will not be able to buy units at first.

“This goes back to the idea that we’re trying to expand access above and beyond folks who have already benefited from solar,” said Oversvee.

The units are transferable.

“If in a year you get a promotion that takes you out of our service territory you can give them to another PUD user or you could sell them, although the PUD wouldn’t get in the middle of that transaction,” said Oversvee.

Snohomish PUD officials plan to begin sell of solar units on April 22 (Earth Day).

Customers can enroll online at snopud.com/communitysolar or can call in and talk to a service representative.

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