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Seattle harnessing sun’s power

January 28, 2010 - 11:07am


Seattle is known for its coffee and its underground music scene, both of which play well into its cloudy and rainy reputation. But just because the skies are gray, it doesn’t mean the people of Seattle aren’t joining America’s solar revolution.

The U.S. Department of Energy has partnered with Seattle, naming it one of 25 Solar America Cities. This partnership provides research and development that helps the city deploy solar energy, and the capabilities for real results are there.

“Most people don’t know that Seattle actually gets more sun than Germany, and they’re the world leader in solar power,” Leslie Moynihan, project manager, says.

Seattle is developing a community solar program where residents will be able to buy shares of a large solar system and receive a credit on their monthly utility bill. This is especially beneficial for renters or people who have a towering evergreen shading their roof. Renters comprise half of Seattle’s population and therefore can’t necessarily make modifications to their homes. These people can, however, still invest in solar.

“The key economic barrier to solar is the upfront cost, so if folks could buy part of a system, it might get more people involved,” Leslie says.

Seattle is conducting market research to determine who will be interested in participation in the community solar program, and those participants could eventually earn up to $5,000 a year from the renewable energy produced by solar systems installed at public utility sites. The pilot project will be smaller-scale, though, probably a 50-kW system with a few hundred to 1,000 participants.

Solar is making a big statement in Seattle, showing that anyone anywhere in the country has enough sun to realize renewable energy’s benefits.