Frequently Asked Questions
What is Solarize Washington?
Solarize Washington, an initiative of Northwest SEED, is an innovative program designed to bring solar energy to Washington homes. This is a community-led effort that empowers you and your neighbors to get educated about solar, select an installer, and leverage group buying power. By partnering with grassroots sustainability groups and local installers in your community, Northwest SEED helps neighbors come together to enjoy significant discounts through the group purchase of solar systems. Key features of Solarize Washington include:
- Grassroots outreach and promotion by neighborhood volunteers
- Competitively selected contractors with set prices
- Free educational workshops for all participants
- Free site assessments for all participants to determine solar suitability
- A limited time offer to get the best deal on solar around!
Do you intend to roll the project out citywide?
Yes! We’ve already received interest from several neighborhood groups and businesses that want to Solarize their community. We intend to roll the program out neighborhood-by-neighborhood -- let us know if you want to be next! We look forward to unleashing the demand for solar in Washington.
How are Solarize neighborhoods selected?
Northwest SEED is excited to bring the power of the Solarize model to neighborhoods and communities across Washington. When we wrap up our current Solarize Washington campaigns, we will release a Call for Partners for the next campaign. If you would like to be kept up-to-date on the next Call for Partners and make your neighborhood the next to Solarize, please contact us.
How are solar installers selected for a Solarize campaign?
The installer selection process is led by the neighborhood group spearheading each Solarize campaign. With support from Northwest SEED, the neighborhood group develops and circulates a Request for Proposals to local installers. Upon receipt of proposals, the neighborhood group evaluates and interviews the top proposers. After a rigorous and competitive selection process, the neighborhood group selects a solar installer to partner on the Solarize campaign.
What is the process to go solar through a Solarize campaign?
- Get registered. Register in our system so we can keep you up-to-date on workshops and schedule individual site assessments.
- Get educated. Attend a free Solarize Washington workshop to learn about solar energy and this limited time opportunity. Workshop attendance will put you on the fast track to receive a free site assessment.
- Get evaluated. Once you've attended a workshop, you're eligible to receive a free site assessment! Through a competitive RFP process, the neighborhood and Northwest SEED will choose a solar installer to provide installation services and group pricing discounts for the neighborhood's Solarize participants. The selected installer will come to your home and see if solar is right for you, and work with you to determine the best system for your needs and budget.
- Sign your contract. Decide whether you want to install solar on your home and sign your contract with the selected installer. Until this point, you're under no obligation to go solar.
- Get solarized! Join the Solarize Washington movement! Once your contract is signed, the selected installer will work with you to schedule your discounted solar installation.
Does solar energy work in Washington?
Absolutely! In fact, more and more people are opting to install solar systems every year in Washington. Although many think of Washington (at least Western Washington) as gray and rainy, we actually receive 15% more annual sunlight than Germany, the world’s leading solar market.
How does solar PV work?
A solar PV system generates electricity by converting sunlight into electricity that can be used in your home or business. This reduces the amount of electricity you need to purchase from your utility. If your system produces more electricity than you need at any given time, it will actually spin your meter backwards to supply the grid. Your utility keeps track of how much electricity you supply to the grid as well as how much you purchase, and bills you only for your net electricity consumption (via net metering.) At the end of any billing period, if overall electricity production exceeds consumption (indicated by a negative meter read) a billing credit is applied to your next bill.
The size of a solar PV system is often described in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). 1,000 W = one kW. Watts are a unit of power, just like the horsepower of an engine. They express the maximum possible output of energy the system can produce at any point in time. When sunlight strikes solar PV panels, they produce electricity that is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). Kilowatt hours are the units of energy you buy from your utility and use in your home to run your appliances, lighting and electronics.
What kinds of incentives are available?
- Net Metering - When you install your solar electric system in compliance with utility interconnection standards and sign an Interconnection Agreement, any unused solar electricity goes back into the grid, spinning the meter backwards and lowering your electric bill. Meter readings by the utility record a customer's "net" electricity use. At the end of any billing period, if overall electricity production exceeds consumption (indicated by a negative meter read) a billing credit at current retail rates is applied to your next bill.
- Federal Tax Incentives - The federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, as amended by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, includes provisions for individuals and businesses to claim a 30% federal income tax credit for the cost of solar technology installations. Credit applies to the basis remaining after any utility or state incentives have been taken. Contact the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for further information.
- Washington State Sales Tax Exemption - The sale of solar electric systems under 10 kilowatts is exempt from state sales taxes.
- Renewable Energy Production Incentives - In May 2005, the Governor of Washington signed Senate Bill 5101, and in August 2006 the Washington Department of Revenue issued rules (updated in 2009) that established a base-level production incentive of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) capped at $5,000 per year, for individuals, businesses, or local governments that generate electricity from solar power, wind power or anaerobic digesters. Higher incentive levels are available (up to 54 cents per kilowatt-hour) if the solar electric (PV) panels and/or inverter are manufactured in the State of Washington. If the system is a community-solar system the base rate is 30 cents per kilowatt-hour with higher incentive levels if system components are made in-state. The program runs from July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2020. Ownership of the renewable energy credits or "green tags" remains with the customer-generator. Your solar electric system must be certified by the State Department of Revenue.