Governor Inslee praises Solar Communities

Bellingham, Mountlake Terrace, Snoqualmie and the Regional Code Collaboration recognized for increasing residential solar energy installations through reduced costs, streamlined permitting

Gov. Jay Inslee proclaimed the cities of Bellingham, Mountlake Terrace, Snoqualmie and the Regional Code Collaboration representing cities in King County, as Northwest Solar Communities, acknowledging their various initiatives that have increased residential solar installations by nearly 500 percent since 2013. They join the existing Solar Communities of Bellevue, Edmonds, Kirkland, Mercer Island and Seattle.

The Northwest Solar Communities program joined local governments, utilities, and solar industry stakeholders from Washington and Oregon to lower the cost of solar panels for homeowners by simplifying and standardizing permitting and interconnection, and support for planning and zoning.

By making it easier and less expensive to install solar on homes, Washington local governments delivered a 60 percent increase in solar generation in 2015 alone. Clean technology, emphasizing solar, is one of seven key areas for action outlined in Executive Order 14-04 to reduce carbon pollution in Washington State and improve energy independence through use of clean energy. The state Department of Commerce is charged with working with WSU and others to develop and deploy new renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

“It is encouraging to see cities rising to the climate challenge and their local utilities supporting those efforts,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Local governments are leading by example, and over the past 30 months have worked to make their communities ‘Open for Solar Business‘ by promoting solar education and adopting a number of best practices, including online permitting, predictable, flat fees, and group purchase campaigns. Others around the state and the country are watching and learning from us.”

At 61 Megawatts, solar accounts for just a fraction of the energy produced in Washington State. The number of solar systems installed has grown more quickly as costs have fallen.  After several years of impressive 30 percent growth, solar installations jumped 60 percent in 2015. In 2015, solar added 23Megawatts of power capacity – enough to power over 4,000 homes.

The U.S. Department of Energy recognized our state’s leadership by providing funding to the state Department of Commerce for the Northwest Solar Communities program to make solar energy cost competitive through initiatives such as the Sunshot Rooftop Solar Challenge.

“Solar and other renewable energy systems are coming of age in cost-effectiveness and community benefit,” said Brian Bonlender, director for the Washington State Department of Commerce. “This latest group of Northwest Solar Communities is to be commended for expanding the use of these systems, saving homeowners money on energy costs and contributing to a more sustainable energy future for their neighborhoods and our state. It’s a great example of public and private organizations working together to ultimately benefit consumers and these communities.”

“Bellingham created the first solar-related program in Washington, and is one of the state’s leading cities for per capita solar energy installations,” said Bellingham Mayor Kelli Linville.

“The city of Mountlake Terrace sees itself as a progressive city, supportive of a variety of energy alternatives,” said Mountlake Terrace Mayor Jerry E. Smith. “We see solar as the future of energy, and for homeowners in particular to benefit from the energy cost savings and to reduce demand for other energy resources by installation of rooftop solar arrays,”

Snoqualmie Mayor Matthew Larson said, “In the past year, we have added 42 solar contracts to Snoqualmie Valley, from a meager start of such eight solar homes in our city. Solar is a source of clean energy and a great local investment. If cities step up to make information and permits accessible, and provide supportive solarize programs, elected officials will be amazed at their local solar growth. If we can do it, we think any city can do it!”

“The Regional Code Collaboration – which is co-led by King County GreenTools – played a key leadership role in supporting the solar communities initiative, and in ensuring solar preparedness actions became part of the new Washington State Energy Code, which is a critical step toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in new buildings by 2030,” said King County GreenTools administrator Patti Southard.

“King County cities are establishing our region as a hub of clean-energy solutions,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “I’m proud that five of our cities are recognized as Northwest Solar Communities, demonstrating our shared commitment to confronting climate change.”

For more information, visit Clean Energy, including ongoing support for solar energy, is part of the Governor's 2015 Carbon Pollution Reduction proposals.