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Aug. 12, 2022

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Energy Adviser: You can use solar arrays even here

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There are many ways to reduce your energy expense and lower your carbon footprint, but nothing can beat the energy savings of a solar array, even in the cloudy Pacific Northwest. Solar panels offer immediate energy savings but require a hefty upfront cost. If you’re thinking of going solar, here are some important points to consider.

Unlike many other electric utilities, Clark Public Utilities is a proud supporter of customer-owned solar arrays. From the utility’s perspective, solar has several benefits: It offers customers a reliable, money-saving and environmentally friendly energy resource, and it benefits the utility by easing stress on the local energy grid during periods of peak demand.

“We always encourage customers to do their research, but there are so many different information sources out there — oftentimes with vague or conflicting ideas — that it can be difficult to make sense of it all,” said Clark Public Utilities key accounts manager Bart Hansen. “So we want customers to know that we’re here for them, with unbiased information from a local perspective.

“Even though solar panels have been around for some time, there are still many common misconceptions about it,” Hansen added. “For example, you often hear that Southwest Washington doesn’t get enough sunlight for solar panels to be worth the investment. On the whole, that’s not the case, but the amount of power an array will generate will depend on a property’s specific characteristics.”

Investing in solar is similar to any major home improvement. There will be many benefits and likely a bump-up in your standard of living, but not without a significant investment. The exact cost will vary from one home or business to the next, but it will likely run from $15,000 to $45,000.

The right-sized solar array in the right location could substantially reduce its owner’s energy expenses over the long term. An array that annually produces the same amount of electricity that a person typically purchases from the utility in a year would become a “net zero” energy source.

Utility customers with solar arrays enjoy “net metering,” in which any excess power their system generates above their home’s consumption is returned to the grid for an equal credit toward their next bill. However, a customer can only generate more electricity and build credits from month to month or season to season, not year to year. That’s why it’s important to right-size the system to the property’s typical consumption, and not lose some of its generation credit at the end of the solar year.

Just like with any contractor, it’s wise to look into the history and reputation of the solar companies you may want to work with.

Straightforward contractors will be clear that only one solar incentive is currently available: the federal tax incentive, which is equal to 26 percent of the total cost. This incentive goes down to 22 percent on Jan. 1, 2023.

Clark Public Utilities doesn’t install solar arrays and never sends out representatives to promote them. But we are here to answer questions and help facilitate the installation of a net-metered array.

Hansen manages the residential net-metering program. He’s available to answer questions during business hours by phone at 360-992-3244 or by email at bhansen@clarkpud.com.

Customers can also find a list of local solar companies on the utility’s Contractor Network. Participating contractors have all required licenses, bonds and insurance and meet the utility’s high standards of safety, efficacy and customer service; but participation in the network is not an endorsement or warranty. For that list and much more, visit clarkpublicutili-ties.com and search for “solar.”


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.

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