Whatcom County is leader in renewable energy use
By Tara Nelson
Puget Sound Energy announced its customers are generating the greatest amount of solar energy to date and receiving the highest level of incentive payments ever made by the utility – two significant milestones in the growth of solar power in the region.
“Washington may have a reputation for cloudy skies, but our 316 PSE customers generating electricity from the sun are proving solar works in the Pacific Northwest,” said Kimberly Harris, executive vice president and chief resource officer for PSE. “Solar energy is growing rapidly, and PSE is committed to working with our customers to help them take advantage of this powerful source of clean, renewable energy.”
Whatcom County boasted 14 percent of all renewable energy installations in PSE’s nine-county electrical service area, with 327 total solar, wind and micro-hydro systems. King County, meanwhile, represented 40 percent of all installations.
One milestone, reaching 1.1 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity, marks the first time renewable energy systems owned by the utility’s customers have exceeded 1 MW in capacity. On average, PSE customers with solar arrays find their systems produce from 25 to 50 percent of their electric power needs. The second milestone, of the utility’s customers receiving $86,557 through PSE’s Renewable Energy Advantage Program (REAP), is the highest total ever in the annual incentive payments for alternative energy sources that began in 2006.
In addition to promoting awareness by noting these customer milestones and sponsoring the upcoming solar tour, PSE supports customers looking to add PV systems, which turn sunlight into electricity, through two programs that help offset the initial expense of a solar array.
Net-metering, or what is sometimes called “making the meter spin backwards,” allows customers to be credited for any electricity they are producing that is in excess of the electricity they are consuming.
When electricity usage exceeds solar energy production, such as during the winter months, the customer can draw on those credits to help offset the normal per-kilowatt-hour (kWh) cost of electricity of approximately $.074 per kilowatt hour for the first 600 kWh of residential electric energy usage.
In addition, customers can also take advantage of production metering in the REAP program, where PSE administers a cash payment from the State of Washington to the home or business owner at a rate of as much as $0.54 per kWh generated if using solar panels and inverters made in Washington. A one-time federal tax credit of up to $2,000 also helps to offset the cost of a system.
For more information about PSE’s Customer Generated Renewable programs for home and business installations, including a link to information about the upcoming Solar Washington tours, www.pse.com.