Solar Power Panels Now an Affordable Option for Tacomans

Tacoma Public Utilities ( TPU ) are urging their customers to buy into their Community Solar program and to help support their efforts in ex­panding solar energy throughout the South Sound.

TPU built four 75-kilowatt proj­ects on the roof of their power ware­house—located at 3628 South 35th St.—that will be funded through community members purchasing individual solar units, which cost $100 per unit. Community Solar will begin its trial this spring and will last until July of 2020.

On average, a complete solar panel system installation costs $15-30,000 for home or business owners, which turns many away from the alternative form of energy. TPU hopes to eliminate that issue by im­plementing a reward system for their participating members.

State incentives are being offered to the various community members who chose to participate. The current Washington State incentive is $1.08 per kilowatt hour of production. Ac­cording to TPU’s website, “We esti­mate that each $100 solar unit you purchase may qualify for approxi­mately up to $161 in incentives and the value of the solar energy pro­duced through the end of the pro­gram.” Individual persons or busi­nesses are limited to purchasing 20 solar units.

According to Environment Wash­ington’s website, “By 2025, solar en­ergy in Washington would annually prevent more than 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution. This would be equivalent to eliminating the emissions from 460,000 passenger cars on the road today.”

Jobs in the solar panel industry have decreased to 2,262 since 2014, when there were about 2,500 Wash­ington jobs.

“By developing about 22% of its full technical potential for rooftop solar power over the next 12 years, Washington can get at least 3% of its annual electricity needs from the sun through rooftop solar PV systems alone,” says a report by Environment Washington. “That is enough elec­tricity to power 246,000 typical Washington homes—or more than all the homes in Spokane, Tacoma, and Vancouver combined.”

Cecile Gomez, who works at En­vironmental Washington, writes in a news release, “The U.S. solar industry currently employs 208,859 workers, a figure which represents 20.2% growth in employment over 2014. For the third consecutive year, em­ployment in the solar industry in­creased 20% or more.”

According to a report by the In­stitute of Energy Research, “Though solar technologies are improving, meeting current U.S. electricity needs with today’s photovoltaic technology would require about 10,000 square miles of solar panels—an area the size of New Hampshire and Rhode Island combined.”

If Community Solar is successful, the result could mean more environ­mentally friendly jobs in Washington and Tacoma.

Payments on the solar panels will be a one-time fee; TPU is not offering payment plans. They are not allowing Tacomans to put the cost of the pan­els on their bill.

TPU will give participants a cer­tificate of participation and an option to be included on a Community So­lar website for those who become a part of the program. Incentive checks will also be disbursed every August of the next four years (2016-2020).