More Questions Answered on New Solar Incentive Program

We are doing our best to keep our customers and readers informed about the new solar incentive package passed by the state legislature this year. We have already provided an overview of the new incentives now available, and this month the Washington State University Energy Program has published its own summary with answers to frequently asked questions.

The six-page document answers a wide range of questions, with heavy emphasis on questions about the application process, which is being administered by the WSU Energy Program. To read the view or download the document as a PDF, click here.

Utilities Considering Changes to Net Metering

As more and more homeowners and businesses make the decision to go solar, utilities are adjusting for the changes to the marketplace and considering revisions in policy and practice. One of the most serious changes being contemplated right now is the change to net metering.

Net metering is the practice whereby a utility customer with a grid-tied solar installation sells excess power back to the utility. Until recently, most utilities have compensated customers producing excess energy at market rates — that is, if the utility sells electricity at 10.45 cents per kilowatt hour, it will pay its solar customers the same rate, 10.45 cents per kilowatt hour, for any extra energy it buys back from them.

But as the number of utility customers selling back their solar power continues to increase, this practice has started to more significantly impact utilities because they typically pay much less for the non-solar electricity they sell to their customers.

The proposed changes to net metering is a nationwide phenomenon. Both utilities and state governments across the country are considering “alternative compensation structures,” according to pv magazine USA. The magazine notes that utilities and state governments in nearly half of all US states are considering or have made changes to net metering policies, and that these policies could discourage people from adopting solar.

In Washington state, Snohomish PUD is the most recent utility to go on record with its desire to modify net metering compensation — a representative of the utility telling the Everett Herald that the utility is considering altering the rates at which solar customers sell and buy back electricity or the possibility of charging customers a base rate.

While it’s not clear what kind of sell-back rates solar customers could get in the future, one thing is clear: The sooner home and business owners covert to solar, the better. For one thing, sell-back rates for the foreseeable future will remain at retail rates, as it will take some time for a net metering change to be pushed through. Second, Snohomish PUD and others have said current solar customers would be grandfathered and allowed to keep their current net metering arrangements.

That, plus newly passed solar incentives in Washington state, means going solar now perhaps makes more sense than ever.

Photo credit: Everett Herald

New Washington State Solar Incentive Program Details

Now that the so-called Solar Jobs Bill has been adopted by the Washington State Legislature as part of the state operating budget passed last month, solar owners and installers are starting to get a picture of what new incentives will mean for home and business owners who rely on solar systems to power some portion of their monthly electricity needs.

Existing Solar Owners

Existing solar owners can expect to be paid at the same rate they were paid by their utility in 2016. There are no reductions to this rate, but the program ends on June 30, 2020. Additionally, some additional paperwork may be required to keep incentives flowing.

Up to this point, incentives have been administered by the state Department of Revenue and will continue to be until Sept. 30, but starting Oct. 1, administration transfers over to the Washington State University Energy Extension Program. Because of this, existing solar owners must reapply to WSU by April 30, 2018 in order to finish participation in the program through the June 30, 2020 end date.

Incentive payments remain limited to $5,000 per participant per year. Systems under 10 kilowatts are exempt from sales tax, while systems 10 kW or greater are eligible for 75 percent remittance.

Although the legacy program is technically limited to projects completed by June 30, 2017, there is a short window from July 1 to Sept. 30 when solar customers may opt to enroll in either the existing program or the new program. Starting Oct. 1, all solar projects will only be eligible for new incentives.

Future Solar Owners

Future solar owners are encouraged to act quickly, as the new program incentives step down each year from 2018 to 2021. Projects are eligible for a base rate plus a bonus if solar panels were manufactured in Washington state.

Year Residential Base Rate ($/kWh) Commercial Base Rate ($/kWh) Made-in-WA Bonus ($/kWh)
2018 $0.16 $0.06 $0.05
2019 $0.14 $0.04 $0.04
2020 $0.12 $0.02 $0.03
2021 $0.10 $0.02 $0.02

Under the new program, solar owners receive the same flat rate over the life of incentive payments, determined by the year when the project was completed. Incentives run for eight years or until 50 percent of the project cost is recouped, whichever occurs first. Projects 12 kW or smaller are capped at $5,000 per year, while projects larger than 12 kW may be paid up to $25,000 subject to a 25 percent program cap on total funds for these larger (usually commercial) projects.

Sales tax is required to be paid under the new program for all systems under 500 kW, while systems 500 kW or larger are subject to 75 percent remittance.

Full details are available on this handy summary produced by the Solar Installers of Washington.

New Solar Incentives Passed by WA Legislature

If you have been contemplating a solar installation for your home or business, but weren’t sure whether the incentives would be there to help finance the investment — your wait is over, as new solar incentives in Washington state officially become available tomorrow.

That’s because the Washington state House and Senate today passed legislation that had become known as the Solar Jobs Bill as part of their $43.7 billion state budget package, which came after multiple special sessions and narrowly averted a partial shutdown of state services.

“We didn’t just pass a bill,” Bonnie Frye Hemphill, campaign director of Keep WA Solar Strong, said in a statement. “Together, we built a community of 10,000 people passionate about clean energy and energy independence.”

The bill replaces outdated incentives for solar owners with a new program designed to boost incentive caps for public utilities, who can make their incentives available to homes and business in their districts. The bill offers a new incentive payment schedule for solar owners that starts at $0.16 per kilowatt hour (kWh) and adds bonuses for systems with solar panels manufactured in Washington state.

While more details about the new solar incentive program will become available in the coming days — and it will take some time for various utilities to put their incentive packages together — owners of homes and businesses in Washington state should know that they can move forward with plans to go solar with the support of incentives that officially become available July 1.

If you are interested in exploring the installation of a solar system tied to the grid of your local electric utility in Washington state, drop us a note on our contact page or give us a call at (800) 696-8935.

State Legislation Would Boost Incentives for Solar Owners

Proposed legislation in Olympia could increase the incentives available for solar installations in Washington state if approved by lawmakers during this year’s special session.

The Solar Jobs Bill (House Bill 1048/Senate Bill 5499) would bring an end to the outdated Renewable Energy System Cost Recovery Program on June 30, 2017, and would replace it with a new program designed to increase incentive caps for utilities and offer new incentives for homeowners, businesses or government entities who own solar installations or participate in community solar projects.

Under the proposed program, utilities would be able to claim a minimum annual credit of $100,000 up to a half a percent of the utility’s total power sales. This credit would be made available for utility customers to apply toward qualifying solar systems under the new program.

The new cost recovery program for solar owners allows for incentive payments starting at 16 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), increasing another $0.08/kWh for using solar panels manufactured in the state of Washington for a maximum incentive rate of $0.24/kWh. For community solar installations — for people whose rooftops aren’t right for solar or who don’t own their homes — the rate increases to $1.08/kWh.

Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, HB 1048 has been designated “necessary to implement the budget,” which means it will be considered as part of the budget approval process. A companion bill in the state Senate, SB 5499, similarly seeks to re-establish healthy solar incentives.

Numerous organizations, from environmental groups and faith communities to utilities and labor unions, are supporting the so-called Solar Jobs Bill with a sign-on petition led by the Solar Installers of Washington. The group is offering information and suggestions on contacting legislators at SolarStrongWA.org.

Rooftop Solar Cools and Reduces Thermal Stress

With spring in full swing, the clouds have just started to give way to glorious sunshine. Soon things will be heating up. When considering the overall efficiency of your home or commercial building, a roof-mount solar installation may be able to help you beyond the generation of clean energy and savings in electrical utility bills.

That’s because one often overlooked benefit of a solar install on your roof is the way the panels act as a shield from the heat of the summer sun, resulting in cooler temperatures inside. In fact, researchers from the University of California San Diego concluded that the daytime temperature of a ceiling inside a building was “5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler under solar panels than under an exposed roof.”

In fact, the study found that the amount saved in cooling costs was worth roughly a 5 percent discount on the price of the solar panels. Obviously the modules themselves are a barrier to the sun’s heat — reducing the amount of heat reaching the roof by 38 percent in some cases — but there are other factors in play as well.

“Much of the heat is removed by wind blowing between the panels and the roof,” the study reported, adding that greater cooling effects are achieved with a tilted solar panel install and with high-efficiency solar modules.

At night, the study said, solar panels allowed buildings to keep the heat accumulated inside due to insulating properties of the panels. The study concluded that the reduced “variability” in rooftop temperatures “reduces thermal stresses on the roof and leads to energy savings and/or human comfort benefits.”

So if you’ve been pondering a switch to solar, here’s yet another reason why solar could be a great investment for your home or business. If you would like a free energy assessment, get in touch with us at Solora Solar today.

For more information on the UC San Diego study, we recommend a couple of great summaries at TreeHugger and EarthSky. You can read the full study on ScienceDirect.

Three Months Left to Cash In On Snohomish PUD Solar Incentives

If you have been considering going solar and happen to live anywhere between Lynnwood and Stanwood — that is, Snohomish County — you might want to go green before the greenbacks are gone.

Snohomish County PUD has announced that their Solar Express program will be sunsetting on June 30, 2017. This means residents of Snohomish County and Camano Island have just three months to get their residential or commercial solar project submitted in order to receive up to $2,000 in incentives for residential installs and $8,000 for commercial installations before the incentives expire.

The specific rebate Snohomish PUD offers for solar projects is $300 per kW. Projects must meet certain requirements, one of which is that the installation site must capture at least 75 percent of direct sunlight when taking into account orientation, shade, tilt and other factors.

If you would like to get more information about the expiring program, visit the Learn About Going Solar page on the Snohomish PUD website. If you would like a free estimate on your project from Solora Solar, give us a call at (425) 366-8953 or tell us on our contact page.

If you don’t live in Snohomish County but are curious about incentives, give us a call. In minutes, we can usually tell you the federal, state and local incentives for which you may qualify.

Printing Solar Panels on Our Curtains? Don’t Blink, It May Happen

Could it someday be possible to hit the “Print” button on your computer and generate a sheet of… solar panels? Will we someday peek through solar panels printed on our curtains and blinds to see if it’s nice outside?

The phenomenon is not as far off as you might think. According to the Australian website Habitat, it is already possible to print solar cells with inkjet printing. Scientists believe it will someday be possible to print cells on a variety of surfaces, including walls, umbrellas, tents and windows. And developers of clean energy in Seattle are already experimenting with the process in a new clean energy lab that opened this month.

Currently, printable solar cells are made by printing a special type of photovoltaic film on a plastic surface. The product is much cheaper than purchasing the solar panels that have been used on the roofs of homes and businesses for years, but it also has a ways to go in terms of efficency — paper cells are about 10 percent efficent, compared to an efficiency rating of around 25 percent for PV solar panels.

“Silicon is falling in price, but think about how cheap plastic is. The ink is a negligible cost, so the raw materials are very cost effective. This is a big step forward because you can put these cells anywhere you can think of. Also the consistency is better than silicon — they work well in cloudy conditions,” photovoltaic expert Dr. Fiona Scholes told Habitat.

In Seattle, testing has begun on the process at the newly opened Washington Clean Energy Testbeds. The facility’s director, J. Devin MacKenzie, told the Everett Herald the new technology would not only be more affordable, but it could be produced much faster and create less waste.

“This would take an hour to go from a new design to printing something structurally,” MacKenzie told the newspaper.

Photo credit: Habitat

Five Years From Now

What were you doing five years ago?

Sometimes when we look ahead, five years seems like such a long time to wait to receive a promotion, save up for a new car, take a vacation or reach some other long-desired goal. But when we look back just five years ago and think about our family, our home, our lives — we are faced with the reality that five years goes by so fast.

Five years from now, what will you be thinking about the choices you’re making today? It’s a question that challenges us.

At Solora Solar, we gain great satisfaction from the five-year mark in our relationships with customers because that’s the point at which their solar installation typically has earned enough in energy production and tax incentives to have repaid their investment in the system. We haven’t encountered a customer yet who reached that five-year mark and regretted their decision.

It’s a great feeling for us, but an even better feeling for them.

That’s why if you are considering going solar, we encourage you to think back to where your life was at just five years ago. If you go solar in 2017, the next five years is going to go pass just as quickly as the last five. And then you will be living in a home that is worth more and generating free energy from that point forward.

What will your life be like five years from now?

Photo credit: Michael Ruiz

Solora Solar Wins 2016 Best of Yakima Award

best-of-yakimaSolora Solar won the 2016 Best of Yakima Award honoring the best local businesses in the community, it was announced last week. The 2016 Yakima Award Program chose Solora Solar as one of a select number of companies who demonstrate “exceptional marketing success in their local community” and “service to their customers and our community.”

“These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business,” the Yakima Award Program said in a statement. “These exceptional companies help make the Yakima area a great place to live, work and play.”

The program analyzes information from both internal and third-party sources to determine annual winners in various categories, identifying Solora as a winner in the Local Business category for 2016.

“Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value,” the award statement said.

Solora has won a number of awards for excellence, also being recognized as a Top 10 solar contractor in Washington state by Solar Power World multiple times.

The 2016 Yakima Award Program officially announced Solora Solar as a winner of the 2016 Best of Yakima Award for Local Business on Dec. 8. Solora Solar is owned by Syed Mujtaba and serves the entire state of Washington from its Yakima and Issaquah locations.