King County seeks partners for solar projects

From staff reports:

King County is looking to find partners in building a number of solar panel projects throughout the county.

The intent is to build the solar facilities to power county facilities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the region, according to King County Executive Dow Constantine's office.

"We've set an ambitious, but achievable, goal of meeting half the needs of county government from renewable sources," Constantine said. "Through creative partnerships with the private sector, we can jump-start our investment in solar energy, and save the public money by using clean, renewable energy that we can generate ourselves."

The new program is called the Community Solar Program. King County issued a request for qualifications as part of the launch of the program, and is offering incentives to any partners who take them up on the project. According to the county, partners would be allowed to lease county sites at a low cost, install solar projects, and receive incentives from the state.

Some of the sites in consideration for the solar projects include closed landfills, court buildings, wastewater treatment plants, and park-and-ride lots.

King County Councilman Larry Phillips, who also chairs the council's Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee, felt the program's launch was a fitting tribute to Earth Week.

"There's no better time than Earth Week to promote clean solar power in the county, reduce greenhouse emissions and stimulate the growth of the state's solar power industry," Phillips said. "Fostering partnerships between King County and its residents taps into solar energy's great but currently underutilized potential as a renewable source in King County."

The Community Solar Program is the result of two years of work. In 2010, the county developed an Energy Plan, and in 2011, Phillips pushed for the Community Solar Program to become a reality. The County Energy Plan is dubbed as the "county's roadmap to achieve energy efficiency and advance the use and production of renewable and greenhouse gas-neutral energy."

The county's take for the project is to receive renewable energy credits and use of the electricity produced at the future sites.

"We want to get the word out and gauge interest as soon as possible," Constantine said, referencing the fact that the state's incentive program ends in 2020. "With eight years of financial incentives remaining, the sooner we get started the better the program pencils out for our partners and the county."


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