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Community Solar Expansion Program

To expand access to the benefits of renewable energy through community solar projects, in 2022 the Washington State Legislature passed 2SHB 1814 and Governor Jay Inslee signed the legislation into law. This successful legislation directs the Washington State University (WSU) Energy Program to implement and administer a community solar incentive program providing $100 million in payments – over 10 years – for the development of projects benefiting low-income individuals, low-income service providers, and qualifying tribal or public agencies. Beginning July 1, 2022, administrators of said projects – which must be larger than 12kW, but no greater than 199kW – may apply to the WSU Energy Program for pre-certification. Upon approval, they will have two years for completion.

Administrators must be a utility, nonprofit, tribal housing authority or other local housing authority, and may apply for certification by the WSU Energy Program at the completion of the project and receive a one-time incentive payment from their serving utility. Administrators participating in the Community Solar Expansion Program must demonstrate how they will pass benefits to subscribers at the time of application, and must continue to pass these benefits on for a minimum of 10 years.

In the first year of the Community Solar Expansion Program, the WSU Energy Program may authorize a maximum of $300,000 in incentive payments. Each biennium thereafter, an amount not to exceed $25 million may be paid out by utilities until the authorized funding is exhausted, or by June 30, 2036. Utilities are authorized to claim a credit against their public tax obligation equal to the incentives paid out.

The WSU Energy Program will track – and make available on its website – the total number of certifications for these qualifying projects, total allocated credit, as well as the available funding that remains.

WSU Energy Program Approves First Project Application

OLYMPIA, Wash., November 2, 2022 – The Washington State University (WSU) Energy Program is excited to announce that it has pre-certified the Community Roots Collaborative (C-ROOTS) low-income community solar project, O Street Roots, and is reserving incentive funds to be paid upon satisfactory completion of their project.

“The WSU Energy Program is eager to see more thoughtful, innovative plans for community solar development, like the O Street Roots project, that serve our low-income neighbors and low-income service providers," said Todd Currier, Director of the WSU Energy Program.

C-ROOTS – based out of Vancouver, Washington – is on a mission to end the homelessness crisis by getting individuals into permanent housing and the wraparound services crucial to their long-term success.

Chris Thobaben, acting Executive Director for the O Street Roots project, added “when we look at housing for people who need it, we don’t think just in terms of the up-front costs, but the costs over 40 to 50 years for a person or small family to live. The solar system being installed here will pay for itself in 12-15 years directly benefitting our residents’ effort to live healthy lives while taking care of their fellow community members. The O Street Roots effort will offer an age in place housing option for decades to come that hopefully acts as an example others can replicate and improve on.”

In early 2022, the Washington State Legislature passed HB 1814 in an effort to expand the benefits of solar. This successful legislation provides funding for projects that directly benefit low-income individuals. The budget for this effort is $100 million dollars – to be spent over the next ten years.

As stipulated by the legislation, C-ROOTS – working with their electric utility, Clark County PUD – has two years to complete their project and apply for certification. This community solar project – uniquely showcasing a series of tiny homes that form a small community, and serve as a host to a 104kW system – will off-set utility costs for the 30-40 individuals moving in. The intent of HB 1814 – providing solar access to those who would otherwise not be in a position to harness the resource that is the sun – is in perfect alignment with this community solar project.

“With qualifying administrators that are utilities, non-profits, local and tribal housing authorities thinking about ‘going solar,’ we believe that we will soon have more great applicants like C-ROOTS,” Currier said.