Efforts heat up to bring solar to Mukilteo

By Sara Bruestle | Jul 25, 2012
Photo by: Sara Bruestle Resident Mary Shank’s 6.7 kilowatt system on her roof includes two arrays of solar panels with 14 panels each. One faces south, the other faces west so that they capture the sun at different times of the day.

Mukilteo is about to go solar.

A local committee is launching a community effort to bring solar energy to homes or businesses in Mukilteo.

The Solarize Mukilteo Steering Committee has partnered with Snohomish County PUD and Northwest SEED to launch Solarize Mukilteo, a program that offers discounts and other resources for solar system installation.

The first of four workshops is scheduled for July 28 in Mukilteo. The information sessions will help interested residents and business owners learn more about solar energy and get through the process of “going solar.” Registration is now open.

Locals who decide to install solar panels can do so with reduced costs realized through a Solarize Mukilteo group discount and incentives offered by the PUD, Washington state and the federal government. Most are time-limited offers.

“Our goal in this committee is to make the process easier to understand and to do the contractor research for people, and also to educate people about solar if they don’t know much about it or if they are skeptical about it,” said Mary Shank, a Mukilteo resident on the Steering Committee.

The community partners are ramping up their Solarize Mukilteo efforts because they say there’s never been a better time than now to go solar.

With all of the incentives – plus energy savings – residents should see up to a 50 percent return on their investment within the first year, said program coordinator Alexandra Sawyer, of Northwest SEED.

The solar incentives include a sales tax exemption that expires in 2013, a one-time federal tax credit that expires in 2016, and a state production incentive that pays residents for the electricity they produce, which expires in 2020.

“We’re in a really perfect sweet spot right now to really maximize the incentives that are out there in solar and to really make it a very worthwhile investment,” Sawyer said.

“The longer you have solar on your home, the more you’re going to get out of it.”

To help, the Steering Committee, made up of six residents, has already selected a contractor – the solar installation team A&R Solar and NW Wind & Solar – for hire by residents.

The volunteer committee selected the team through a competitive bidding process. The group discount is 15-21 percent off the original price, depending on the system, Sawyer said.

“Having a pre-selected contractor, that helps folks because many folks feel like they don’t have to go out and get 2, 3, 4 bids to make sure they’re getting a good deal,” she said.

In addition, Solarize Mukilteo workshops offer a step-by-step process to help residents and business owners and understand the benefits of solar systems and feel confident in their decision-making.

Four workshops are scheduled monthly through October as follows:

• Saturday, July 28, 9-10:30 a.m., Mukilteo City Hall, 11930 Cyrus Way

• Saturday, Aug. 18, 10-11:30 a.m., Mukilteo City Hall, 11930 Cyrus Way

• Saturday, Sept. 22, 10-11:30 a.m., Mukilteo City Hall, 11930 Cyrus Way

• Wednesday, Oct. 17, 6-7:30 p.m., Rosehill Community Center, 304 Lincoln Ave.

Topics to be covered include solar use in Washington, how solar works, the available incentives and pricing examples. There will be a Q&A session and an opportunity to set up an assessment with the contractor.

Shank had solar panels installed on her home last year to save both money and energy. Her house, built by her parents in 1948, used to have oil heating. Oil is not only expensive, it isn’t very environmentally sustainable either, she said.

“I’m a hippie at heart,” Shank said. “I was concerned about my carbon footprint. Even though gas [has] less of a carbon footprint, solar takes that away.”

“I’ve been generating electricity on my roof ever since.”

She also hasn’t had to pay a PUD bill since her panels were installed. She sees a credit balance on her invoice every month. The state pays her 15 cents for every kilowatt-hour she produces. (Get a system made in Washington and that 15-cents credit jumps to 54 cents.)

And, thanks to other incentives, she paid $27,000 for a 6.7-kilowatt system and installation worth $44,000.

Shank said it took her months to decide on a contractor and a solar system and that she wishes the Solarize Mukilteo program had been around to help her through the process.

“I spent a lot of time stewing about it because it was really hard to figure out how to compare them,” she said. “It was very technical and there were lots of choices.”

Including hers, three homes in Mukilteo have a solar system installed. There are also two systems at the Future of Flight and one at City Hall.

Through Solarize Mukilteo, Shank said the Steering Committee hopes to increase those numbers.

“We feel that we have chosen a team that offers Mukilteo residents a lot of choice in equipment, professional service, really good pricing, so we have basically shortened all of that muddling time that I went through,” she said.

“People can take advantage of our effort to not have to really delve into it themselves if they don’t want to – or people can use this as a starting point for their own investigation.”

Register online at www.solarizewa.org now through Oct. 10 for a free workshop. There is no obligation to buy.

Northwest SEED (Northwest Sustainable Energy for Economic Development) is a non-profit organization that promotes clean energy on a community scale. Mukilteo’s is its fifth Solarize program in the state.

For more information, contact the Snohomish County PUD at solarexpress@snopud.com, or go to www.snopud.com, or contact Northwest SEED at alex@nwseed.org, or go to www.nwseed.org.

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