OLYMPIA – Thurston County officials are looking into the potential of leasing space for solar panel arrays as allowed by state legislation approved in 2009. Under the program, county and city governments can lease space to private companies who then pay for and install the solar energy system. The local government benefits from acquiring the power generated at low or no cost. Financial incentives from the state allow the company to make a profit on the project. It also helps ensure that power companies, in this case Puget Sound Energy, can meet state requirements for use of renewable resources.
Thurston County Commission Chair Karen Valenzuela says the program will help the county in its efforts toward zero environmental impact. But she says there is also an advantage to taxpayers. “Money we save on energy costs can then be used to help pay for other programs that county residents have told us are priorities for them. There are really many advantages to this program and that is why we are carefully examining the potential.” There is no cost to the county if the program moves forward. In addition, the project would provide some local benefits in that use of local labor would be encouraged for the installation and the legislation requires that the solar panels be built by a Washington State company.
County facilities officials have identified four possible locations for a solar panel array-
- The Waste and Recovery Center on Hogum Bay Road.
- The county Public Works facilities on Tilley Road.
- The Accountability and Restitution Center in the Mottman Industrial area.
- The 3400 Building, also in the Mottman Industrial area.
County Commissioners will declare the intent to lease space for a solar energy project. The next step, according to county Capital Projects Manager Ed Burnett, will be to issue a “Request for Proposals” for those who may be interested in partnering with the county. “The RFP will provide the necessary information and process for entering into a lease of County space for the installation of solar power.” Burnett says an example of how the program works can be found at the Olympia Farmers Market, where the city of Olympia has joined with a local Limited Liability Corporation for a solar project.