State investments enable burst of new solar panel projects in community buildings

Commerce grants $3.5 million to help public buildings cut energy costs, reduce pollution and showcase solar in communities across the state.

OLYMPIA, WA – The Washington State Department of Commerce today announced $3.5 million in grants to state and local government agencies to install solar panels at public buildings in communities throughout the state. The 29 projects will provide over 2.2 megawatts of solar and will produce more than 3 million kWh annually—enough to power about 280 homes.

Solar grants provide competitive funding to install solar at public buildings and facilities, such as schools, hospitals, community centers and wastewater treatment plants. Washington’s 2021 State Energy Strategy identifies community-owned solar as an important strategy for achieving clean energy and equity goals, especially for Tribal communities and agricultural communities. It also urges state and local agencies to lead by example with clean energy investments for public buildings that build local resilience.

“Supporting solar projects in public buildings is one of the many ways Washington state is leading by example as we work toward meeting our goal of 100% clean electricity by 2050,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “These grants prioritized projects in rural and Tribal communities, to ensure all state residents benefit from a cleaner more efficient electric grid.”

Photo of members of Highline High School Environmental Club with advisers and community partners standing in front of the new school

Students from Highline High School’s Environmental Club were instrumental in fundraising and grant writing that helped Highline Public Schools win a $110,100 grant to install solar panels on the new school building in Burien. Pictured are 2021 HHS graduates and current students along with their advisors and partners in the grant: Rod Sheffer, former executive director, Capital Planning & Construction (a 1969 HHS graduate); mentors Jodi Escareño and Elly-Hien Trinh of Sustainable Burien; students Samantha Quiroz, Jordan Powers (current club president), Gladis Gallardo, Brenda Gallardo, Selena Nguyen, Nha Khuc (former club president), Ruth Assefa, Kim Nguyen and Ricardo Gonzalez Ceja. 

The awarded projects include three by Tribal governments and five projects in small communities with populations under 5,000. These grants will fund distributed clean energy for schools, affordable housing and critical public facilities in Washington’s communities:

  • Birch Bay Water and Sewer District ($30,000) for the Wastewater Treatment Solar Panel Installation to install 30.3kW
  • City of Bellevue ($101,250) for the Bellevue City Hall – Rooftop Solar Array to install 100kW
  • City of Cheney ($189,258) for the City of Cheney Wastewater Treatment Plant Solar Array to install 99.9kW
  • City of College Place, Washington ($175,000) for the City of College Place 2021 Solar to install 100kW
  • City of Connell ($188,633) for the Connell Well #8 Solar Project to install 99.9kW
  • City of Edmonds ($119,645) for the City of Edmonds – Public Safety Building Solar to install 100kW
  • City of Mabton ($277,706) for the Mabton Solar Project to install 99.9kW
  • City of Pateros ($125,013) for the City of Pateros Solar Project to install 43.5kW
  • City of Woodinville ($73,450) for the Woodinville City Hall Rooftop Solar Array to install 76.4kW
  • Eatonville School District ($165,292) for the Eatonville HS Solar PV to install 66kW
  • Edmonds Public Facilities District/ Edmonds Center for the Arts ($226,192) for the EC4ARTS Solar PV to install 100kW
  • Franklin Pierce School District ($110,000) for the Harvard Elementary Solar PV to install 100kW
  • Highline Public Schools ($110,100) for the Highline High School Environmental Club Solar Project to install 99.9kW
  • Island County Public Transportation Benefit Area ($133,795) for the Whidbey Main Base Solar Panel Project to install 100kW
  • Jefferson County Public Utility District 1 ($100,000) for the Operations Center Solar Installation to install 100kW
  • King County Housing Authority ($120,239) for the Nia Apartments Solar Installation to install 86.4kW
  • Kitsap Transit ($90,949) for the Charleston Base Solar Project to install 66.6kW
  • Manchester Water District ($39,748) for the Manchester Water District Workshop Solar Array to install 36.5kW
  • Nooksack Indian Tribe ($84,061) for the Solar for Nooksack Tribe – IT/PPE Warehouse to install 38.5kW
  • North Seattle College ($117,961) for the North Seattle College – OCEE Building Solar to install 96kW
  • Oak Harbor Public Schools ($36,369) for the Oak Harbor Public Schools – NWMS Solar to install 33.3kW
  • Oak Harbor Public Schools ($82,100) for the OHPS Administration Building Solar Array to install 84.2kW
  • Prescott School District ($251,990) for the Prescott School District Solar Array to install 99.9kW
  • Public Utility District No. 1 of Thurston County ($29,995) for the Thurston PUD – Administration Building Solar Array to install 37.6kW
  • Public Utility District No. 1 of Thurston County ($32,755) for the Thurston PUD – Operations Center Solar Array to install 30kW
  • Samish Indian Nation ($21,445) for the Samish Indian Nation Cannery Building to install 33.4kW
  • Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe ($182,912) for the Solar for Sah-ku-me-hu to install 90.7kW
  • Seattle Central College ($130,047) for the Seattle Central College – Broadway Edison Solar to install 96kW
  • South Seattle College ($119,905) for the South Seattle College – Cascade Hall Solar to install 86kW

“I congratulate the students from the Highline High School Environmental Club and their community partners, for instigating and electrifying efforts to raise funds and write grants to build their dream of a 100-kilowatt solar power installation on the roof of our new high school building,” said Scott Logan, chief operations officer of Highline Public Schools. “Thank you to the Department of Commerce for helping fund their dream of a better future.”

“This generous grant is a huge support to us in the services we provide our citizens,” said Tom Wooten, Samish Tribal Chairman. “We are honored to be selected as a recipient of the Commerce Solar Grant, which is doing so much to remove barriers to critical resources in our community while providing the opportunity to decrease our carbon footprint through use of solar energy.”

”With this grant from the Department of Commerce, Connell can reduce the costs of providing city services while reducing environmental impact and supporting clean energy jobs. We are thrilled to accept this grant and excited to demonstrate clean energy in our community,” said Connell Mayor Lee Barrow

This competitively scored grant process prioritized projects with lower costs and higher savings, as well as matching funds provided by applicants and new grantees. Brown noted that ensuring equitable distribution of available funds is a key priority of all Commerce programs. Another approximately $1 million for solar projects will be awarded through this program in 2022. The next application cycle is expected to open in the first quarter this year.

Solar grants are one of several funding opportunities under Commerce’s Energy Retrofits for Public Buildings program, which provides grants to towns, cities, Tribes and other state and local governments to make energy updates to community buildings and facilities. To learn more and stay up to date on the next applications visit


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