WHAT IS COMMUNITY SOLAR?
Community solar gives customers the opportunity to share in the cost of building a solar electric project, making it more affordable. Customers also don't have to worry about weighing down their roofs, finding ideal sun exposure on their properties, following building codes, paying for ongoing maintenance or other concerns associated with owning their own solar energy system. Although we don't have all the answers yet on this project, here are a few other frequently asked questions:
Why is Okanogan County PUD doing community solar?
Our customers have expressed their desire to take advantage of the sunny Okanogan Valley and generate electricity here at home. But doing individual rooftop solar can be cost-prohibitive and complicated, so that very few are able to own their own system. It is also a way to take part in renewable, carbon-free energy, adding to the PUD’s portfolio currently at about 96 percent carbon-free.
How big is the Sunny Okanogan Community Solar project? How much energy will it produce?
The project is approved for up to 74.4 kilowatts, but we will decide on the size of the project based on affordability and community support.
How can I participate?
1. Join our Sunny Okanogan Solar Club: You don’t have to buy units to be in the club, just be interested in the project and its future and be an Okanogan County PUD customer. The group will likely meet monthly.
2. Buy units when they become available: We will be selling units at an affordable cost once we have established the cost of the project (a unit is NOT equal to a panel). Only Okanogan County PUD customers can buy units. There will be options for low-income participants as well. The cost will be required upfront in a lump sum, and will be made sometime in early 2020 - participants will be notified of the timeframe to buy units, but the exact date is yet to be determined.
Anyone interested in participating must complete an interest form. Once turned in, the form will be the guide for all contact with participants, and will guide decisions on how large of a project to pursue.
How much will the full project cost?
We will get official bids on the project in the coming months. We also anticipate receiving grants to help cover a portion of the cost and make participation more feasible for more of our customers.
Who pays for ongoing maintenance and repairs?
The per-unit upfront cost includes maintenance and repair costs.
How will I benefit from this project?
Those who participate in the project by purchasing units will see payment come in two ways:
1. A generation credit on their bill based on their proportional share of the energy produced by the project, continuing as long as the project is in operation, and
2. An annual production incentive through Washington State at $0.14 per kWh, available for 8 years and capped at $5,000 per year, per customer. State production incentives are subject to changes in state law and cannot be guaranteed year-to-year.
Will participants be eligible for federal tax credits?
We have designed the program to give participants the ability to seek a federal tax credit. Consult your tax advisor to determine how you can make that happen.
Can I monitor the production of the project?
Yes! You will be able to see the project’s current and past production on our website once the project is up and running.
What happens when the project reaches the end of its lifespan?
The project is expected to last 20 years, the point at which solar panels tend to start failing. We will continue to produce as long as we can, but maintenance might prove too expensive, or efficiency might be too poor to continue. Options will be discussed more when we are closer to this point in the project.
Can I transfer my units to another person or organization?
A participant can transfer units to ANY other Okanogan County PUD customer. One might do this if:
1. A participant moves out of our service area, making them ineligible to participate in the community solar program (if you just move to another residence within our area, your units go with you).
2. A participant wants to give someone an awesome gift of renewable, carbon-free energy and allow them to get both the bill credit and state incentive.
3. A participant wants to support a charity or non-profit organization by allowing it to get both the bill credit and state incentive.
4. A participant passes away and leaves their units to another Okanogan PUD customer.
Does the PUD plan on building additional community solar projects in the future?
At this time, we do not have plans for additional projects, partly due to the end of state incentives and the uncertainty of customer interest. However, if the community shows enough interest and incentives return, we could consider future projects.
If you want to participate in community solar, fill out our interest form and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or drop it by one of our offices.