Spurring Solar Power in the South Sound

Featured in the September 2016 Issue of Gig Harbor Living Local
By Brett Marlo DeSantis
Photographs courtesy of Synergy Electric & Technology

How strong is solar in the Puget Sound region? You may be surprised to hear that we receive more sunlight here, in western Washington, than the world leader in installed solar capacity. That’s right; Germany only receives 60% of our sun hours. And similarly, Washington gets 30% less sun than Southern California sun. Solar works here, and it works very well.

Solar Irradiance is the number one way to measure solar performance. NASA defines irradiance as ͞the amount of light energy from one thing hitting a square meter of another each second.͟ Solar energy professionals employ irradiance meters when doing a site evaluation and energy production estimate. Meters will assess the optimal location to place your panels using a combination of an electric compass, inclinometer and a fish-eye lens taking into account the height of buildings, tree lines and other elements in the immediate built environment. But you don’t have to invest in a meter to know whether solar is right for you!

To do a quick check on whether your property would be a good candidate for solar, check out the national renewable energy laboratory at http://pvwatts.nrel.gov/ and type in the address of your site and the website will estimate your potential system output.

Another easy option is to make a call. Local solar expert Matt Molzan, of Synergy Electric + Technology, can assess your location over the phone using Google Maps. Thankfully, his company is not a proponent of taking down too many trees for solar.

Keeping it local, Molzan prefers to source solar components within the Pacific Northwest from solar cells to framework! His average cost for solar on a house runs $30,000 and takes approximately three days to install. Talia Haller of the HeatSpring blog reports that in 2010, the cost of one solar watt was $3.80. Their Sunshot Initiative project is attempting to bring solar costs to only one dollar per watt or $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. That will be a 75% decrease in the 2010 cost. By 2015, the cost of solar was already reduced by seventy percent!

In addition, solar power now is an even smarter, more affordable investment thanks to federal and state tax credits and incentive programs. On your next tax filing, you’ll be entitled to claim a 30% tax credit from the total cost of your solar system, or spread the credit over two years.Through June 30th, 2018, on systems smaller than 10kW, in Washington state, solar is tax-free! On systems that are larger that 10 kW, there will be a 75% tax rebate on Washington Sales Tax. In addition, the State of Washington Production Incentive Program, promotes renewable electricity generation by purchasing solar generation at $.15/kWh until July 2020. If the inverter is manufactured in

Washington state the $.15 is boosted to $.18/kWh. Solar modules made in WA earn $.36/kWh and if both model and inverter are made in WA you earn $.54/kWh. Other benefits of solar panels include: lengthening the life of your roof, adding to the resale value of your home, having a personal power system that cuts your electric bill, independence from the grid (including emergencies resulting from natural disasters) and last but certainly not least, knowing that you are taking part in creating a future of clean energy.