Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Community Solar Park Sets Shining Example

I love how local ideas are driving advances in the proliferation in renewable energy.    The Tacoma News Tribune reports on a new example of community solar purchases -- in this case, installed in a local town park:

What if Ellensburg put up solar panels in a park and invited residents to invest in the system? As a return on their investment in clean energy, residents would get a credit on their electric bill.
Nystedt, resource manager for the city of Ellensburg — which owns the local electric and gas utilities — enlisted the support of his boss. The City Council in turn got behind the effort.

With help from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Washington State University’s Northwest Solar Center, Ellensburg launched in 2006 what is believed to be the first “community solar park” in the country, putting the already progressive municipal utility on the leading edge of getting power to the people.

It’s an idea that experts say could be replicated in communities across the country. In the meantime, hoping to encourage the trend in Washington state, lawmakers increased the amount of the credit available to individuals who invest in renewable community projects. The rules implementing the credit could take effect early next year, according to the state Department of Revenue.

Nobody’s getting rich off the Ellensburg project. Instead, it’s driven by the community’s commitment to explore the potential of renewable energy.  “A lot of people in this community really believe in getting away from fossil fuels,” said George Bottcher, a City Council member and investor.

The spirit of a clean energy revolution is spreading.  Sooner or later, the Senate is bound to catch on...

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