Community Solar FAQs
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. 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 existing projects in Jefferson Park in South Seattle and the Seattle Aquarium. The next project will start construction and enrollment in the summer of 2014
. 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.
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.
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!
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.
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. Under the State law as currently written, an estimated annual credit for one $150 unit would be between $28 and $30, depending on the project, so that full payback could be expected by 2020. That means Community Solar is a good investment for the planet and a good deal for your wallet.
Each solar unit costs $150, and customers can buy any amount of units between 1 and 125.
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. The third project will be located at two sites on Phinney Ridge in North Seattle - the Phinney Neighborhood Association and the Woodland Park Zoo. Between the two sites, there will be about 75 kilowatts of solar installed - the maximum size for a Community Solar project under Washington state law. For all the details on our Phinney Ridge Project, click here
The first project at Jefferson Park produces approximately 25,000 kWh of electricity per year. The Seattle Aquarium project is 44.4 kilowatts and should produce more than 46,000 kwH per year. 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. We let you see how the projects are doing by making live solar production data for each one - check to see how Jefferson Park
and the Seattle Aquarium
Yes. Participants receive annual production incentive credits through 2020 from both Seattle City Light and Washington State for their portion of the electricity generated.
Current production incentives are as follows:
- Washington State: currently $1.08/kWh*
- Seattle City Light: $0.0764/kWh*
- Total Production Incentive of $1.16/kWh yields an estimated annual credit of almost $1.22 per watt in a solar unit.
* For more information on the credits, please see How is the credit to my utility bill determined?
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.
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.
Yes. However, signage size, type and location may be affected by the location of the project and the number of participants (as on-site or other physical signage could be problematic when we have larger numbers of people). We are exploring our options and may also have digital displays that will be innovative and fun available from our website. Physical signage may or may not be available depending on the project.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. For example, each unit in the Seattle Aquarium array represents a 24 watt piece of the entire system. We have projected that each $150 Aquarium unit could return about $190 in electricity bill credits to customers by the time the Seattle Aquarium project ends in 2020.
The state's utilities pay production incentives to qualified solar-generating customers (including Community Solar participants) within their service territories and earn a tax credit equal to the cost of the payments. The tax credit that the utility may claim cannot exceed the greater of $100,000 or 0.5% of the utility's taxable power sales. The incentive amount paid by a utility on behalf of the State may be proportionally reduced if requests for incentive payments exceed the tax credit cap available to that utility. Seattle City Light expects to reach its tax credit cap some time in 2016 or 2017. Without a change in the State law, incentive payments to all solar customers within City Light territory could be reduced for the duration of the program. For Community Solar customers, a reduction in incentive payments per unit would be small, but since reaching the cap is market driven and difficult to predict, it is not possible to estimate the amount of reduction, if any.
The "virtual net metering" portion of the Community Solar payment is tied by ordinance to the Small General Service rate. As part of City Light's strategic planning efforts, these rates are subject to change.
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