Gov. Jay Inslee came to visit Snohomish County Public Utility District’s community solar and microgrid project in Arlington which is nearing completion.
“The visit went really well. He asked a lot of questions about the technology that will be here,” said Aaron Swaney, media liaison with the Snohomish County PUD.
Inslee stopped by to look at the project, in part, because some of the funding came from the state’s Clean Energy Fund, an initiative from the Washington Department of Commerce meant to encourage development and deployment of environmentally friendly energy technology.
Snohomish County PUD has used the fund for the Arlington microgrid project as well as two battery storage projects located in Everett.
The Arlington site hosts Snohomish County PUD’s first community solar program, which provides county residents an opportunity to purchase “shares” of a solar panel array in exchange for a credit on their energy bills.
The credit is equivalent to the energy the solar panels produce.
The program is meant to provide access to solar energy for those who would otherwise be unable to install solar panels on their home.
“We had more than 500 PUD customers reserve 100 percent of the solar panels in about a month,” said Swaney.
“We also granted 10 percent of that power to some of our community service providers,” he said. That power is going to the Stanwood Camano Community Resource Center and HopeWorks who use the power credit to support low-income housing.
Swaney said the program was very popular.
“Our first foray into community was so successful, and we have heard from the community, our customers and businesses that they want us to keep going down that road,” he said.
The PUD is hoping to build a second community solar array in Everett.
“All of the proceeds for that are planned to go toward income-qualified people,” said Swaney. Specifically, that solar array is meant to help low-income individuals and families that qualify for the PUD’s other support programs, he said.
The community solar portion of the Arlington site is operational now, however the other planned parts are still undergoing work.
“The microgrid is not done quite yet,” said Swaney, although construction is scheduled to finish this summer with an August virtual ribbon cutting planned.
The center is planned to incorporate the solar panel array, battery storage to hold that energy and a “microgrid” that can be isolated from the standard electrical grid.
“Our battery storage system is not new, but I would say what is new is how these components will all be working together,” said Swaney.
Battery storage and microgrid technology could advance the sustainability of our energy systems in the future.
“It really is a one-of-a-kind project,” said Swaney.
He said construction crews continued the project through the COVID-19 virus.
“It’s been quite a journey going through the pandemic,” he said. “They have done such a good job keeping the costs affordable during this time."