Capturing the power of the sun together


Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

Crunchy slush was sleeting down — the season's first snowfall in Shelton — on the winter solstice as a crowd gathered to celebrate the dedication of Mason County's first shared solar power program.

The irony was not lost on the 100 or so guests who attended the ribbon cutting ceremony Monday at the Mason PUD 3 operations center on Johns Prairie Road.

"We picked the shortest day of the year to celebrate solar power," Justin Holzgrove told the attendees, who are among the 110 PUD customers who will benefit from the energy produced by a 75-watt project located on top of one of the PUD buildings.

They will also benefit from federal tax credits and a Washington State Production Incentive.

Almost 2,900 "solar units" were allocated to 110 customers who registered to participate in the project; 227 people applied. The PUD's shared solar energy system will generate enough electricity to power seven homes in Mason County, PUD states.

PUD states that the shared solar project helps customers who can't take advantage of solar energy at their homes for a number of reasons: It costs too much for them; nearby trees might block out the sun; solar panels, brackets and connectors are too heavy for their roof; they are restricted by homeowners association's covenants.

Tom Farmer, president of the Mason PUD No. 3 Commission, said the PUD has reached its size limit under state law on what it can build for community solar.

He said he hopes the state Legislature considers expanding the ability of public utility districts and others to develop more community solar energy projects.

"We have plans for the future, and we need help," he said.

PUD states that participants will see their investment pay off in about three or four years, in three ways: an annual credit on a customer's electric bill based on the electricity generated by their share of the project; an annual state production incentive of $1.08/kWh that a customer's solar units generate through 2020; and the opportunity to use a federal tax credit for solar energy systems.

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