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04/08/2015

Gov. Inslee praises five “Solar Communities”

Bellevue, Edmonds, Kirkland, Mercer Island, and Seattle recognized for increasing residential solar energy installations through reduced costs, streamlined permitting

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee today proclaimed the cities of Bellevue, Edmonds, Kirkland, Mercer Island and Seattle “Northwest Solar Communities,” acknowledging their various initiatives that have increased residential solar installations by nearly 200% since 2013.


The Northwest Solar Communities program joined local governments, utilities, and solar industry stakeholders from Washington and Oregon to bring down the cost of solar for homeowners through actions such as simplifying and standardizing permitting and interconnection, and support for planning and financing.


By making it easier and less expensive to install solar on homes, these cities achieved a 197% increase in annual installations. Clean technology, emphasizing solar, is one of seven key areas for action outlined in Gov. Jay Inslee’s Executive Order 14-04 to reduce carbon pollution in Washington state and improve energy independence through use of clean energy. The Department of Commerce is charged with working with WSU and others to develop and deploy new renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.


“It is terrific to see cities rising to the climate challenge and their local utilities supporting those efforts,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Local governments have, over the 18 months, worked to make their communities ‘Open for Solar Business‘ by promoting solar education and adopting a number of best practices, including online permitting, predictable, flat fees, and group purchase campaigns – they are leading by example and others around the state and the country are watching and learning from us.”


At 35 Megawatts, solar accounts for just a tiny fraction of the energy produced in Washington state. The number of solar systems installed has grown steadily by about 30 percent per year. In 2014, solar added 11.2 Megawatts of power capacity – enough to power over 2,000 homes.


The U.S. Department of Energy recognized our state’s leadership by providing funding to the Washington State Department of Commerce for the Northwest Solar Communities program to make solar energy cost competitive through initiatives such as the Sunshot Rooftop Solar Challenge.


“This progress resulted from strong public-private partnerships,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “The Utilities and Transportation Commission and utilities have worked to simplify interconnection, the State Building Code Council has simplified permitting requirements that were supported by the Washington Association of Building Officials, and the WSU Energy Extension Program is training building inspectors.”


“As part of the city’s longstanding commitment to environmental stewardship, Bellevue is working hard to offer residents renewable energy options and lower greenhouse gas emissions. We’ve streamlined our permitting process to make it easier and more affordable to install solar panels on homes,” said Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci. “The city also sponsored a Solarize Bellevue group purchase campaign. As a result, 50 residents signed up for new rooftop solar arrays and 42 have been installed so far on Bellevue homes – including my own. That’s real progress, thanks to the Northwest Solar Communities program and to collaborations with other cities and organizations.”


“We’re excited to continue supporting solar energy in Edmonds. The opportunity to reduce power bills is of great interest to our community,” said Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling.


“Kirkland is pleased to be among Northwest Solar Community cities committed to and recognized for simplifying permit processes that encourage the use of clean, renewal energy,” said Kirkland Mayor Amy Walen. “We are proud that our online permitting makes it easier for residents to install rooftop solar panels which save money and save the environment.”


In just twelve months, we have tripled our solar capacity by adding 47 new installations," said Mercer Island Mayor Bruce Bassett. "Residential solar fits so well into the evolving story of renewable, clean energy for our community, and aligns with our carbon commitments under the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration (K4C.)”


“We are reducing the burden of going solar in Seattle by eliminating permits for rooftop panels on single family homes and moving to on-line permitting,” said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “Thousands of residents are installing solar systems to lower power bills while helping our community meet carbon reduction goals.”


For more information, visit www.nwsolarcommunities.org. Clean Energy, including ongoing support for solar, is part of the Governor's 2015 Carbon Pollution Reduction proposals.

 

 

 

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ADDITIONAL QUOTES:
 
“Snohomish PUD is dedicated to working with local jurisdictions, solar installers and supporters to bring down the cost of going solar.  There is clearly growing customer interest in solar energy and we are committed to supporting this interest while maintaining a reliable, safe and affordable power system,” said.  “We applaud our partner cities for their innovation in helping make solar energy more affordable.” Leslie Moynihan, Snohomish County PUD’s Program Manager of Customer Renewables
 
“These cities are making it easier and more affordable for their communities to go solar, and we have already seen an uptick in solar adoption rates as a result. We hope other cities around the state will model their success by streamlining permit applications, adopting equitable fee schedules, and ensuring systems are installed safely on homes and businesses.” Dave Kozin, A & R Solar
 
“The combination of falling costs, stable incentives, public information campaigns, and simplified permitting has created remarkable growth of the use of solar energy, and growth of the number of solar-related jobs in Washington. Solar energy businesses would like to thank our partner cities for their invaluable contributions toward the establishment of two of those growth factors. Let’s do more!” Jeremy Smithson, Puget Sound Solar
 
“My unsung heroes are the local government staff who are leading changes that will make it possible for all of us to choose clean local solar energy.” Linda Irvine, Program Director, Northwest SEED
 
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About Commerce
 
Commerce is the lead state agency charged with enhancing and promoting sustainable community and economic vitality in Washington. For more information, visit www.commerce.wa.gov. For information on locating or expanding a business in Washington, visit www.choosewashington.com.
 
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