State’s Biggest Community Solar Project Coming to Phinney Ridge

The most visible panels of City Light’s third Community Solar project will be installed at Woodland Park Zoo’s Rainforest Pavillion.

Seattle City Light is partnering with Woodland Park Zoo and the Phinney Neighborhood Association (PNA) to install the state’s largest community solar project.

“Customers continue to tell us they want solar electricity and we are creating that opportunity,” General Manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco said. “This project will allow hundreds of people to buy solar power even if they can’t install panels at their own homes or businesses.”

An artist’s rendering of what the panels at the zoo’s Rainforest Pavilion will look like.

The Community Solar on Phinney Ridge project is designed for a system of about 74 kilowatts on the roofs of two buildings at the zoo and PNA’s Phinney Center, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is expected to produce more than 75,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year.

Currently, the biggest community solar project in Washington is a 74.1 kilowatt system at Poulsbo Middle School that produces about 72,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

“As stewards for thousands of individual animals and plants, as well as caretakers of a historic built environment, Woodland Park Zoo continues to strive to be the community’s most exciting, living showcase of sustainability through leading by example,” zoo Chief Operations Officer Bruce Bohmke said. “This project offers another way for us to engage our community.”

Other panels will be installed at the Phinney Neighborhood Association’s historic Phinney Center.

Anyone with a City Light account can purchase part of the array’s output for $150 per unit. The cost can be added to a participant’s electric bill and paid in two installments. Customers can buy up to 125 units. Participants receive credit for their units’ production on their City Light bills through June 30, 2020, along with all state renewable energy production incentives.

Units will go on sale soon. Interested people can learn more and sign up to be alerted when sales begin at www.seattle.gov/communitysolar .

Current Washington state production incentives and bill credits for the energy produced add up to $1.16 per kilowatt-hour of electricity. Each unit of the array is expected to be 28 watts, which would generate about $34 worth of electricity annually.

“The PNA was a partner in the very successful Solarize Seattle: Northwest program last spring, and many area residents asked about community solar,” neighborhood association Executive Director Lee Harper said. “We are thrilled to be able to follow through for those people who can’t put solar on their own house by helping us put it on our building. It will be great to power our community events with clean community solar power. It certainly is in keeping with our mission to engage and serve our community.”

This is the third Community Solar project installed by Seattle City Light. The first is located at Jefferson Park in Beacon Hill. The second project at The Seattle Aquarium sold out in just six weeks.

Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to about 750,000 Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.

Seattle City Light, Seattle Aquarium Celebrate Solar Project Success

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien shares his enthusiasm for renewable energy at the Community Solar celebration.

Dozens of solar electricity investors joined City Light and the Seattle Aquarium today, to celebrate the successful installation of the largest solar array at any aquarium on the West Coast as part of the utility’s Community Solar and Green Up programs.

“Investing in alternative energy is an important element of the aquarium’s vision, and fits perfectly with our mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment” aquarium President and CEO Robert Davidson said. “Using clean, green energy supports healthy marine ecosystems by reducing our facility’s carbon footprint. It also supports one of the Aquarium’s key messages: that everyone can make a difference in the preservation of Puget Sound and our one world ocean.”

NW Wind & Solar of Seattle installed the $330,000 system, which covers a large portion of the south side of the Seattle Aquarium’s roof. The 247 panels for the 49.4 kilowatt system were purchased from Marysville-based Silicon Energy, promoting more green jobs in Western Washington.

Most of the panels produce electricity on behalf of 187 City Light customers who bought 1,800 units of solar power through the utility’s Community Solar program. The rest of the panels serve as a demonstration project through the utility’s voluntary Green Up renewable energy program with the electricity produced helping to power the Aquarium’s operations.

Each 24 watt unit of the solar installation cost $150.

This is Seattle City Light’s second Community Solar project. The first was installed in Beacon Hill at Jefferson Park in 2012.

“Community Solar demonstrates Seattle City Light’s commitment to meeting the energy needs of our customers in an environmentally sustainable manner and shows why we call ourselves The Nation’s Greenest Utility,” City Light Chief of Staff Sephir Hamilton said.

“This innovative project lets customers promote and benefit from solar even if they rent, have shady roofs or can’t make the big investment of installing their own solar system,” Hamilton said. “When customers invest in solar, they also think harder about reducing their own electricity use in order to make the most of their solar production credits.”

Participants receive credit on their City Light accounts for their portions of the solar panels’ output through 2020 along with all state production incentives. Together, those credits amount to $1.15 per kilowatt-hour. City Light estimates that participants will receive more than $150 worth of electricity and production incentives for each unit purchased by the end of their agreements. Details are available online.

“As soon as I found out about this program I was excited about the opportunity to participate in solar even though I live in a multi-family building,” said Gina Hicks, who purchased the maximum 125 units. “I knew how attractive it would be to renters and people who live in buildings like mine where it’s difficult to get their own solar arrays installed. I’ve been spreading the word about Community Solar ever since.”

Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.