Seattle – Last week Gov. Inslee signed his first bill into law, one that is aimed at tackling climate change in Washington. One solution the governor has often touted is solar energy. Today, Environment Washington, industry leaders, and city officials joined together to show that solar energy is a viable, yet under-utilized, energy source for Washington. They asked Gov. Inslee to set a goal for Washington of installing the solar capacity equivalent to 150,000 solar roofs in Washington by 2020.
“Solar is a triple play for Washington – we could create clean energy, cut carbon pollution and boost our economy,” said Robb Krehbiel, Program Associate with Environment Washington. “That’s why we’re asking Gov. Inslee to set a goal for Washington to put up 150,000 solar roofs by 2020.
According to Environment Washington’s new report, Solar Works for Washington: How Expanding Solar Power Will Protect Our Environment and Benefit Our Economy, the state could be doing much more to deploy and develop solar energy systems. Key findings from the report include:
- The Puget Sound region gets as much sunshine as Germany, which is the world’s leader in solar energy. East of the Cascades in cities such as Yakima and Kennewick, this potential is over 60 percent greater than that of Germany.
- With the help of more expansive policies, the state can replace 5.5 percent of its total electricity use in 2025 with solar energy through a combination of rooftop solar power, solar water heating and utility-scale solar power.
- Meeting these energy goals would annually prevent more than 2.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution. This is the equivalent of eliminating 460,000 cars from the road.
- In 2011, 2,300 Washingtonians were employed at 93 firms in the solar industry—a 180 percent increase over 2010. Expanding Washington’s solar energy market would create thousands of additional jobs in solar installation, maintenance and manufacturing.
In addition to creating jobs, solar manufacturing companies like Silicon Energy and Itek Energy have brought more than $1.6 billion in capital investments to the state. According to solar industry leader Howard Lamb, the legislature has not shown its commitment to advancing the solar market.
“Job growth in the solar industry continues to be the highest job creator both nationally and locally, unfortunately the Legislature was not able to renew favorable solar incentives that will expire soon,” said Lamb. “Washingtonians want smart solar policies that will keep the bulk of the incentives and jobs local, are sustainable over the next decade, and that result in 150,000 solar rooftops by 2020.”
While the Legislature failed to enact new solar legislation this year, many cities, including Seattle, are already expanding their solar potential. One of the most visible examples of emerging solar is found on Capitol Hill at the Bullitt Foundation’s new building. It is the first commercial building in the state to be energy neutral, thanks largely in part to its large and impressive solar array.
“I’m proud of what Seattle has been able to accomplish with solar energy, with a ten-fold increase in residential solar customers since 2006. Thanks to innovative programs and daring entrepreneurs, our city can serve as an example to the rest of the state,” said Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien. “As we continue look for local opportunities to grow solar, we will also work with the Governor and the Legislature to pursue common-sense and innovative solutions that make solar easier, cheaper and more accessible for more people.”
Other cities are also expanding their solar energy. Groups like Community Energy Solutions have introduced local “Go Solar” campaigns that have helped communities get more of their energy from the sun.
Co-Founder Joe Deets commented on the success of their campaigns, stating, “Our Go Solar Washington initiative has helped to harness the public’s interest in solar energy into action. It is gratifying to see that in 18 months the initiative has led to more than 130 families in five communities in western Washington to go solar. With the right policy choices, solar energy can play a major role in helping Washington’s economy, and the environment.”
This year, the Legislature debated several solar bills that would have allowed for solar leasing, extended incentive programs and increased solar generation. None of these bills passed. Advocates and industry leaders are hopeful that this new goal will propel solar legislation forward in the Legislature.
Environment Washington is a statewide, citizen-based advocacy organization dedicated to clean air, clean water, and open space. For more information, please visit www.environmentwashington.org