Commerce awards $3.7 million for solar installations benefitting low-income communities

Clean energy projects will reduce energy burden for low-income households and nonprofit housing providers

The Washington State Department of Commerce today announced $3.7 million in grants for nine solar energy projects across the state. The projects will result in a total $6.1 million reduction in the energy burden of low-income households and nonprofits serving low-income communities over 25 years.

The Low-Income Solar Deployment Program is part of Washington’s Clean Energy Fund, established in 2013. These grants will result in 2.8 megawatts (MW) of nameplate generation from new solar installations — enough solar power to serve about 322 average households per year or over 12 million electric vehicle miles.

Washington state map shows project locations. Text describes that the nine projects will generate 2.8megawatts of energy and save $6.1 million over 25 years.

“Low-income households pay a disproportionately higher portion of income for energy bills, and often are also in locations more likely to be impacted by the effects of harmful carbon emissions and climate change, such as poor air quality,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “These projects will lower the energy burden of low-income communities while increasing renewable energy generation on the electric grid, both important steps toward achieving energy equity across Washington state.”

From a pool of 12 applicants requesting a total of $4.8 million, the projects awarded funding are:

Coastal Community Action Program (CCAP) — $243,000 to build a 121 kilowatt (kW) installation at their service center in Aberdeen. CCAP will use the energy savings from the project to offset energy costs and provide more services to qualified low-income households across Grays Harbor and Pacific Counties.

HopeSource — $170,130 to install a 101 kW solar array on the new Spurling Court affordable housing complex in Ellensburg. The production benefits will go directly to the residents of Spurling Court and to offset the energy costs of the Spurling Court community center.

Lummi Nation — $593,898 for the installation of two solar PV systems on the Lummi Nation Administration Building and HeadStart Building, with a total capacity of 384 kW. The energy savings generated by the solar project will lower the energy burden of the Lhaq’temish Foundation, which serves over 15 school, nonprofit, and tribal programs.

Olympia Community Solar — $341,732 for the installation of a 126 kW solar system on the Merritt Manor affordable housing complex in Olympia. The generation from the solar project will offset resident electric bills.

Merritt Manor in Olympia (Photo courtesy of Olympia Community Solar)

Opportunity Council — $179,324 for the installation of a 100+ kW solar PV system on the East Whatcom Regional Resource Center (EWRRC) in Peaceful Valley. The installed system is expected to reduce the Foothills Food Bank’s annual energy costs, which will be diverted to purchasing food and supplies that they provide to the community.

East Whatcom Regional Resource Center (Photo courtesy of Opportunity Council)

Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO) — $1 million to build a 1.2 MW community solar array on San Juan Island. OPALCO will use benefits from the array to offset the annual energy bills of Low-Income Service Providers on the three main islands, and to increase the credits provided to offset low- and moderate-income households’ monthly energy bills.

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) — $207,932 for installation of a 243 kW community solar project on the Olympia Center in Downtown Olympia. PSE will direct the benefits from the project to low-income households and affordable housing providers across Olympia, and to the nonprofit tenant of the Olympia Center.

Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) — $861,814 to install a community solar project in south Everett. The PUD will donate all the generation credits to Project Pride, which provides bill assistance to Snohomish County ratepayers in need.

Yakima Valley Partners (YVP) Habitat for Humanity — $112,600 to install a 119 kW solar project on the organization’s storefront in downtown Yakima. The energy savings generated over the life of the project will directly support construction of new homes.

“OPALCO is honored to be awarded funds from the CEF3 Low-Income Solar Deployment Program,” said Foster Hildreth OPALCO’s General Manager. “This grant will give us an opportunity to address equity in our island communities by dedicating a substantial amount of the solar production to benefit households of low and medium income through OPALCO’s energy assistance programs and support low-income service providers that offer a safety net for our most vulnerable co-op members.”

All grant funds are contingent upon execution of final project contracts with Commerce. The selection process prioritized equity, including a requirement that each project must lower the energy burden of one or more low-income households, either directly or through a nonprofit service provider.

Washington’s Clean Energy Fund supports research, development and deployment of clean energy technologies, smart grid innovation, energy efficiency and more. To date, the fund has invested more than $131 million in transformative projects and clean energy job creation around the state.

Washington’s Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) sets Washington on the pathway to carbon-neutral electricity by 2030 and 100 percent clean electricity by 2045.

To learn more, visit Commerce’s Low-Income Community Solar Deployment webpage. Read about other Clean Energy Fund grants here or contact CEF@commerce.wa.gov.

Washington State Department of Commerce official news and information. Our mission is to strengthen communities in our state.

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