Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Aug. 11, 2020

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Energy Adviser: Home solar panels a bright idea


It wasn’t that long ago when home solar panels were thought to be more of a status symbol than a solution — something that made more of a value statement than economic sense.

But things couldn’t be more different today. Solar has proven itself, even to the most ardent critics, a cost-effective and emissions-free tool to offset energy bills, all year long.

“We know that many of our customers are interested in adding a solar array to their homes, but aren’t sure where to begin,” said Clark Public Utilities Key Accounts Manager Bart Hansen. “Our utility has always been a proponent of solar and we’re prepared to help customers educate themselves so they can confidently decide if it’s the right fit for their homes or businesses.”

Possibly, the biggest benefit of solar is the cost savings and the credits that can be earned through a process called “net metering.” In that process, a solar array will supply the power your home needs first and send the excess power to the utility, which then credits you at an equal rate toward your next bill.

“A good example is that if a customer purchases 20,000 kilowatt hours from the utility over a year, the customer’s solar array can generate up to 20,000 kilowatt hours a year, thus making their home a “net zero” energy consumer,” Hansen said.

Energy incentives

Despite what some social media marketing campaigns may claim, there are only two solar energy incentives available in Clark County — the federal tax incentive and the Washington State Sales Tax Exemption.

The federal incentive is 26 percent off the total cost of the solar project in the form of a tax credit. Not all customers will be able to fully utilize the federal tax credit and the credit is reduced each year and set to phase out at the end of 2021.

There are several things a person should consider before investing in solar, including the age and directional orientation of your roof, nearby trees, whether your home is connected to natural gas, and any rules codified by your Home Owners Association–to name a few.

Investing in a solar array is similar to buying a car; it’s significant. Depending on several factors, a home solar installation can range from $15,000 to $50,000.

Knowing what the upfront cost is will help you understand how many years it will take to recoup your investment. So it’s important to consider your needs and goals and to shop around for a good price.

Hansen recommends you get bids from at least three contractors before settling on one.

The utility doesn’t install residential solar arrays. But it works with local contractors to make sure the installations meet the highest standards of safety and efficacy. It also keeps a list of local contractors who’ve provided proof of their licensing, bonding and insurance. For that list and much more, visit clarkpublicutilities.com and search “solar.”

But solar’s benefits can be measured in more than dollars. Many people take pride in producing their own carbon-free energy and being self-sufficient.

If you want to know more about solar and how it can work for you, reach out anytime. Hansen manages the residential net metering program and is available to answer any questions customers may have. He’s available Monday through Friday by phone at 360-992-3244 or email at bhansen@clarkpud.com.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.