Solar array coming to SCC; honored at Clinton event

Thursday, April 15, 2010

  Photo courtesy SCC
From Donna Myers and Jim Hills, SCC

Shoreline Community College will soon be home to the largest community solar-electric array in the nation. 

“This ground breaking project is a result of a partnership between our Clean Energy Technology Center and industry partner Silicon Energy,” said SCC President Lee Lambert. “Obviously, we’re very excited, not only for the significant savings on electricity for the college, but also the literally hands-on experience our students will get with this technology.”

Fittingly, the project will officially kickoff on Earth Day, April 22, when Lambert and Silicon Energy owner, Jong C. Limb are scheduled to sign a memorandum of understanding for the installation.

The project will take advantage of legislation passed this session, ESSB 6658. Officially known as Washington State Department of Revenue’s Renewable Energy Production Incentive Program, it is commonly referred to as the community solar law. The law includes incentives for investors to install solar-electric systems of up to 75 kilowatts on public buildings and private homes. The incentives increase if the components of the system are made in Washington, as with Arlington-based Silicon Energy.

For SCC’s project, the college will lease the rooftop of the student union building to Silicon Energy. The company will then install the system and seek the investors. Under the law, individuals may invest in up to 5 kW of a community solar array, at a cost of about $40,000. That means 15 investors will be needed for the $600,000 SCC project.

“We project the return on investment could be in the 10-12 percent range over 10 years,” said Mike Nelson, director of projects and external affairs for Silicon Energy. That includes payment from Seattle City Light for the power generated, plus federal tax credits. The project helps City Light meet its renewable energy mandates and the utility also gets a tax credit, Nelson said.

“The college gets to use the power,” Nelson said. “It is unlikely that 75kW will ever meet the entire load of the college, but the power will be used on campus. Electrons are basically lazy, they go to nearest resistance.”

After 10 years, Nelson said the deal calls for the college to buy the system from the investors for a nominal fee. “But the modules will continue to generate electricity for decades to come,” he said. “Basically, free electricity.”

The system will use about 428 modules and power inverters provided by Silicon Energy. For installation, Nelson said Silicon intends to contract with Galaxy Electric, a firm owned by a former student of the Center for Clean Energy Technology, who will in turn use current students in the program to do some of the work.

Shoreline already had the largest solar array in City Light’s system, an 18 kW system on the roof of the 2900 building. Another smaller system is on what is known as the “Zero Energy House,” a demonstration project built by Washington State University students which now sits on the SCC campus and serves as offices for the Clean Energy Technology Center.

“This new system is easily larger than any other roof-mounted system,” Nelson said. “The only thing bigger is Puget Sound Energy’s 500 kW system at Wildhorse in Kittitas County and there is no other state that has this kind of community solar law.”

The final rules for administering the law are still being written, Nelson said. He and others will testify May 11 at a state Department of Revenue hearing. Nelson said he expects that process will be finished soon after, clearing the way for installation this summer. “Just in time for the sun,” he said.

See a student-created computer-generated model of what the project will look like. Click here.

SCC Project to be honored at Clinton Global Initiative Event

The coming community solar project at Shoreline Community College is going to shine on a pretty bright stage this Saturday, April 17, 2010: The Clinton Global Initiative University, 2010.

“This is recognition for the great work being done here,” SCC President Lee Lambert said. “Again, Shoreline is leading the way as a world-class institution.”

Hosted by former President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative University is part of the Clinton Global Initiative. The University engages university students, organizations and administrators to make commitments that address global issues with practical, innovative solutions, according to the web site. The program, April 16-18, at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., is the third annual meeting.

Shoreline’s project is scheduled to be shown on stage on Saturday morning. Lambert was invited to participate in the three-day event and will be on-hand for the Saturday presentation.

“The people at Shoreline are working hard to meet the needs of our students, our partners and our communities,” Lambert said. “This recognition is well-earned and I’m proud to represent our college"


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