In a shining moment for Edmonds environmental advocates, the ribbon was cut Wednesday afternoon for Western Washington’s first community-owned solar cooperative, which just launched a 4.2-kilowatt solar-powered system on the roof of the City of Edmonds-owned Frances Anderson Community Center.
Frances Anderson Center, located at 7th and Main, is now getting a part of its electricity from solar power, a point of pride for Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper, who was on hand for the Edmonds Community Solar Cooperative ribbon cutting. “We all want energy independence and the only way to get there is to support innovative energy projects in our own cities,” Cooper said. “Edmonds has taken this important first step.”
The Edmonds Community Solar Cooperative was formed under a partnership between Sustainable Edmonds, a volunteer civic group, and solar project developer Tangerine Power. According to Cooperative interim President Chris Herman, the group has already started making plans for phase 2, which will increase the 4.2kW system up to 60kW, made up of over 300 solar panels. “It all depends on how much interest and desire the community members in the Snohomish PUD service area have to be directly involved in generating clean energy and reducing our dependence on conventional forms of power generation, with large environmental footprints,” Herman said.
Cooper, an early supporter of the project, explained that the city is leasing roof space to the cooperative and will buy electricity from the project at discounted rates until 2020. “These agreements form an important partnership between the City of Edmonds and a growing number of our citizens wanting to take decisive action to address energy independence, energy efficiency and climate change,” Cooper said. “Developing clean, renewable, solar projects like this one as well as other alternative energy sources like wind, tidal, biomass, and others, when combined with solid energy conservation strategies, will allow us to take a leadership role in a new energy future.”
The project, which was created by Sustainable Edmonds, has been in development for over a year. Efforts like this one, called Community Solar Projects, were created by Washington State legislation passed in 2009. Under the program, the cooperative sold trademarked “SunSlices,” with each owner receiving a voting membership allowing them to participate in decision-making.
“The Cooperative is thrilled to have become the first citizen-owned community solar project in Washington,” said Edmonds resident Carlo Voli, a cooperative board member and the first SunSlice buyer. “Partnering with the City of Edmonds empowers any Snohomish PUD customer to become a solar system owner with a relatively small financial commitment and achieve economies of scale and eligibility for federal and state incentives. This system allows the Frances Anderson Center to save on its energy bill for decades to come and provide educational opportunities for all Edmonds residents on the benefits of solar energy use.”