Community Solar FAQs
What is Community Solar?
Community Solar is a different model for solar energy. Instead of putting solar on your own home (which requires home ownership, the right sunny location, and a fairly large upfront investment), Community Solar lets many people come together to build one larger solar array. At Seattle City Light, we choose locations that are a good fit for solar. The panels are in sunny locations, visible to the public, and on properties that bring other public benefit to our community, such as parks, or the Seattle Aquarium. Participants benefit through economies of scale, better siting, and the opportunity to take part at a much lower entry level. Instead of paying many thousands of dollars for your own solar electric system, you can get financial benefits and support solar in our community for as little as $150.
City Light has a Community Solar program with an existing project in Jefferson Park in S Seattle and we are currently enrolling the final units in our second Community Solar project at the Seattle Aquarium. The way it works is that City Light builds a solar array and then allows customers to enroll in the project by paying upfront to purchase energy from a portion of the city-owned solar modules. Customers will receive an annual credit through 2020 for the amount of electricity generated by their portion of the project -- full payback of the customer's upfront payment is expected by 2019, so the last year's incentive payment should actually make you some money.
Can solar power work in Seattle?
Yes. Seattle City Light customers are adding more solar power each year. Despite our cloudy reputation, solar power has solid potential in this region. In fact, Seattle and the Northwest receive greater solar exposure than Germany, the world leader in solar energy.
Is Community Solar available to all City Light customers?
Yes. Whether you are a business, non-profit group, or household (rented or owned); living in a single family home, apartment, townhome or condo-you qualify to participate!
Does this mean I don't have to own my house or building to participate?
That's right! One of the many benefits of owning solar with Seattle's Community Solar program is that anyone with a City Light electric bill is eligible to purchase "solar units" which equal a portion of a project.
Why should I sign up?
Community Solar provides an easy and affordable way to participate in a solar energy project. You'll be part of a pioneering group moving Seattle toward a cleaner, renewable energy future. You'll also receive an annual credit through 2020 for the amount of electricity generated by your portion of the project, with full payback expected in 2019. That means Community Solar is a good investment for the planet and a good deal for your wallet.
How much does it cost?
For the second phase of Community Solar, we have listened to our customers and lowered the price for each solar unit. We will also allow customers to buy many more of them. Each solar unit will cost $150, and you can buy any amount of units between 1 and 125. (125 units would cost you about the price of installing a typically sized solar array on your own home using made-in-Washington Silicon Energy panels, which is what is being installed at the Aquarium).
Where Are Community Solar projects located in Seattle?
Our first Community Solar array is in Jefferson Park, located on Beacon Hill. This project is already helping to demonstrate that solar works in Seattle. The second project is on the south roof of the Seattle Aquarium, a highly visible public space on Seattle's waterfront, with optimal solar access.
How much electricity will the Community Solar projects produce?
The first project at Jefferson Park produces approximately 25,000 kWh of electricity per year. The Seattle Aquarium project is larger and will be at least 43 kilowatts, with a maximum size of 44.4 kilowatts. We conservatively estimate 1050 kilowatt hours of electricity are produced for every kilowatt in size of the system. So far our Jefferson Park facility has done even better than that.
Do I receive an incentive credit for the energy produced by my solar unit(s)?
Yes. Participants receive annual production incentive credits through 2020 from both Seattle City Light and Washington State for their portion of the electricity generated. A full payback is projected for the Aquarium Community Solar project by 2019. Current production incentives are as follows:
Washington State: currently $1.08/kWh.
Seattle City Light: $0.07/kWh
Total Production Incentive of $1.15/kWh yields an estimated annual credit of almost $29 per solar unit
Why does the program end in June 2020? Who will receive the energy credits after that date?
The program ends in June 2020 to coincide with the current sunset date for Washington State Renewable Energy Production Incentives that represent the largest portion of energy credits. At that time, the community solar arrays will continue to produce energy and ownership will be transferred to the host site.
How do I enroll?
The online enrollment for the Seattle Aquarium Community Solar project has been disabled because we have fewer units available than the maximum one person could purchase under the program terms. However, you can still enroll - contact an Energy Advisor at (206)684-3800 or SCLEnergyAdvisor@seattle.gov
and we can help you.
How can customers pay for their Community Solar units? Any chance I can pay it on my bill?
Yes! When you enroll, the charge for your unit(s) will be divided in two equal installments on your next 2 bills. Once the charge is added to your bill, you will be able to pay by check, by credit card or by electronic funds transfer from your bank account.
Will I be publicly recognized for my participation?
Yes. However, signage size, type and location is still being considered and may be affected by the number of participants (as on-site or other physical signage could be problematic once we get up to larger numbers of people). We are exploring our options and definitely plan to have a digital display that will be innovative and fun. It will be available from our website, and we hope to link to it from other venues. We will communicate with participants about what we do as far as signage and make sure everyone has a chance to give us their name or short message to share.
Is my payment for solar unit(s) tax-deductible?
No. Participation in Seattle Community Solar is a purchase of a portion of a solar system that provides annual bill credits and is not a donation. Seattle City Light is a municipal corporation and does not qualify as a charitable organization.
Can I take the solar electricity benefits with me if I move?
Yes, if you move within the Seattle City Light service area, transfer the solar benefits to your new account. If you move out of the Seattle City Light service area, you can designate another Seattle City Light account to receive the benefits. If you choose a non-profit organization, the value of your donation could be tax-deductible.
Do I have to apply for rebates or file for state production credits?
No! City Light takes care of everything so that you don't have the hassle of filling out multiple applications. City Light takes advantage of the State's generous Community Solar production incentive, passing on your pro-rata incentive as a credit on your utility bill once a year through 2020.
Will I have to pay additional fees in the future?
No. All of the insurance, warranty, management and maintenance for the system is included in the initial price. As a customer, you will not have to pay any additional out-of-pocket fees.
How is the credit to my utility bill determined?
Due to the fact that your solar panels are part of an array that shares one production meter, your bill will be credited back at a portion of the entire array's production. Each unit represents a 24 watt piece of the entire system. We expect each $150 unit to return about $190 in electricity bill credits to customers by the time the Seattle Aquarium project ends in 2020.
We're here to help
You can also learn about Community Solar by talking with a Seattle City Light Energy Advisor.
Email us at: SCLEnergyAdvisor@seattle.gov
or Phone: 206-684-3800 (translation services available).
Seattle City Light
Attn: Community Solar Program Manager
PO Box 34023
Seattle, WA 98124-4023