PUD solar program moving forward after commissioners show their support

A reduced payback period is expected to tip the scale toward the completion of a community solar project.

A reduced payback period is expected to tip the scale toward the completion of a community solar project.

Commissioners of the Clallam County Public Utility District unanimously approved a resolution to support the project on June 6. Continuation of the project was questioned by the commissioners after PUD staff extended the original enrollment deadline in response to an initial lack of participation.

The project now has about 98 percent of the community commitment sought for construction, and a shift from the original plan is anticipated to bridge the gap to full participation.

“To go forward with the community solar project, it’s more attractive to go with in-state produced equipment,” said Fred Mitchell, Clallam County PUD power supply and utility services manager. “It brings the simple payback down from 25 years to 15 years.”

Given state incentives available at least through 2020, building the solar system with locally manufactured equipment is estimated to carve 10 years off the time it takes for participants to regain their investment, Mitchell explained. However, the shorter payback period comes at a price.

To offset the $37,000 cost increase to the $300,000 project, PUD officials are selling 1,350 units instead of 1,200.

“We have another 150 units to sell, but I think that the lower payback will be just that much more attractive,” Mitchell said.

The concept behind the solar project is to allow as many interested PUD customers with an opportunity to engage and support renewable energy.

“Through this project you don’t have to own a home or be in an ideal location for rooftop solar to benefit from solar energy,” Mitchell said.

Also, the community project makes solar energy more economically viable for those that can’t afford to install a personal rooftop system, he added.

Under the adjusted plan the price per unit remains at $250 with a maximum purchase limit of 40 units.

PUD customers who participate will receive a credit on their electric bill based on the electricity generated by the project and their share of units purchased. Additionally, they’ll receive a state production incentive per unit until June 2020.

On a first-come, first-serve basis all those that have committed interest under the initial plan will have first choice at purchasing more units if desired because of the shorter payback.

“We want to give people that were willing to step up under the old economics the first bite at the apple under the new economics,” Mitchell said.

Once all the units are purchased, PUD officials will move onto getting the necessary permits for construction.

“There are some indications it’s going to require a SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) checklist, but tightening down permitting requirements is really the next step,” Mitchell said.

For more information on the community solar project, visit www.clallampud.net/communitysolar or call the PUD main office at 452-9771.


Reach Alana Linderoth at alinderoth@sequimgazette.com.