In the coming weeks, Capitol Hill residents could have a unique opportunity to directly fund a large-scale, rooftop solar panel project going up right in the neighborhood. And if saving the planet isn’t enough of an incentive, you’ll also get a rebate on your Seattle City Light bill to sweeten the deal.
Capitol Hill Housing recently solidified plans to install community funded solar panels at its Holiday Apartments property at 10th and E John by the end of October. The solar panels are the result of nonprofit’s efforts to create more tangible projects under the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict, which CHH launched last April.
The solar panel project, which is benefiting from the state’s Renewable Energy Cost Recovery Incentive Payment Program, should be up and running by the beginning of November. At that time, SCL ratepayers who invest in the project will begin to receive credits on their electric bills. Around 1,200 solar panel units will be available to invest in at around $150 each.
“We hope most (participants) will be based on Capitol Hill. This is about engaging people in the ecodistict in solar energy,” said Joel Sisolak, who spearheads the ecodistrict at CHH.
Through the incentive program, the state will pay a credit on the ratepayers electric bills through June of 2020. CHH will own the system and after June 2020 the solar energy collected will support the Holiday apartments energy use. Sisloak says that without some public subsidy, “the math does not work” for such solar projects. The production incentive will hopefully be extended after 2020 into a 10-year revolving payback, but the legislature has so far failed to alter the program.
Three CHH buildings were originally considered for the project, but Holiday, which stands just across the street from the Capitol Hill Station light rail construction site, ended up being the only one with a strong enough roof to support the panels, Sisolak said.
“We want a first success so we can build on it and potentially expand the program,” Sisolak said.
The solar panel project will be among the first visible outcomes of CHH’s ecodistrict efforts, which seek to promote hyperlocal sustainability. Plans for the ecodistrict were first drawn-up in 2011 after CHH received a grant from the Bullitt Foundation. Last year the foundation completed work on the “greenest office building in the world” with the Bullitt Center at 15th and Madison.
The foundation recently announced that Capitol Hill’s super-green office building could offset up to $18.5 million in public infrastructure spending over the lifetime of the building by reducing the need for spending on projects like storm water mitigation.
Sisolak is also working with King County on a shared parking project that seeks to get better use out of Capitol Hill’s under-utilized garage parking spaces. This summer, CHS reported on a 11th Ave pollinator pathway being planned to cross the Hill.
The goals of the district are not just about being green, said Sisolak, but also being socially sustainable as well. In that vein, Sisolak said he and his team are working to increase renter involvement in sustainability conversations and decision-making. The project will pilot next year when CHH will start engaging its own residents in their affordable housing complexes.
Details on how to invest in the Holiday building solar project will be released on a website Sisolak said the ecodistrict is planning to launch a website in the coming weeks. However, Sisolak said the solar panel project is only a small part of the ecodistrict’s larger goal of reducing and conserving energy.
“Having this project is a way to introduce people to the larger conversation about conservation,” he said.
You can learn more at capitolhillecodistrict.org.