PUD to Launch
by Marissa Luck
"One thing we do know is that fossil fuels are wreaking big destruction on our planet,"
"I think this is the future for our country and for the world."
Cowlitz PUD is inviting utility customers to join it in jumping on the solar power bandwagon.
PUD commissioners Tuesday approved a community solar panel project that aims to make solar energy more accessible to the average customer.
Rather than install an individual solar array on individual homes -- which requires home ownership, a sunny location and thousands of dollars in investment -- a group of PUD ratepayers can pitch in to build three larger solar arrays.
Up to 300 PUD customers can sign up for the program.
It will work this way: Customers will be offered "units" of solar power. The cost is $1,000 for 10 units. In return, the participating customer will get rate breaks and state payments totaling $1,153 over four and half years. Modest credits on PUD bills would continue for 20 years.
Customers can buy up to 130 units. Enrollment is slated to begin Oct. 26.
The PUD will build and maintain three solar arrays on the utility's property. Customers who participate in the $770,000 project would fund the project. Those who don't would not be charged for the cost, the utility said.
Cowlitz PUD spokeswoman Alice Dietz says the program could give customers an incentive to use solar energy.
"If you wanted to put solar panels on your home, it would cost $15,000 to $20,000. ... It's kind of impossible" for many people, Dietz said Tuesday.
Similar programs have proven to be popular in Clark County, Benton County, Franklin County and the Spokane area, she added.
Participating in a community solar project also doubles the normal tax credit an individual would receive for having a solar panel on his or her home, according to the utility.
The cities of Woodland and Kelso recently approved similar projects, which will be administered by a private Idaho-based company, Inovus Solar. The company will recoup part of its costs through Washington state tax incentives, according to Inovus.
Les Anderson, Longview resident and member of Landowners and Citizens for a Safe Community, which is opposing a Longview coal terminal, offered to help the PUD promote the project.
"One thing we do know is that fossil fuels are wreaking big destruction on our planet," Anderson told the PUD commissioners. "I think this is the future for our country and for the world."
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