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Entering the spring season, South Sound residents will have the opportunity to get outside and take in the region’s longer daylight hours and budding greenery. As nature starts to spring back to life, the new season can also be a time for Thurston County homeowners to start thinking about green living improvements, including a transition to solar energy.

blue house with solar panels on roof in Olympia installed by Olympia Community Solar
To help streamline the solar panel installation process, a local nonprofit, Olympia Community Solar is launching the second annual Solarize Campaign, set to begin in early April. Photo courtesy; Olympia Community Solar

To help streamline the solar panel installation process, local nonprofit, Olympia Community Solar (OCS), is launching the second annual Solarize Campaign, set to begin in early April. During the 2022 Solarize Campaign, community members can learn more about the benefits of solar for their home or business by signing up for a free assessment and consultation with the opportunity to lock in competitive group pricing for both the solar equipment and installation.

OCS has joined with a number community partners for the Solarize Campaign, including installation partners, South Sound Solar, Sunset Air, PacWest Solar, and Capstone Solar and lending partners like Olympia Federal Savings (OlyFed).

“Last year was OCS’s first Solarize Campaign and exceeded all their expectations,” says Barbara Whitlow, AVP/Residential Relationship Manager with OlyFed. “We’re just honored to be a part of OCS and to provide a variety of financing options to enable folks to utilize solar power. It’s a much-needed green energy option for our homes and business and then they can save money on their energy bills, too. So, it’s good for the planet, good for the people.”

As home energy costs continue to rise, more homeowners are interested in seeking out alternative and more eco-friendly energy sources. As a renewable energy source, solar panels are becoming an increasingly popular and affordable option for homeowners. In addition to being a cleaner energy source, solar panels can also help to reduce monthly utility bills.

Garage with a van out front and solar panels on roof
During the 2022 Solarize Campaign, community members can learn more about the benefits of home solar panels, sign up for a solar panel consultation and lock in competitive group pricing for solar panel installation. Photo courtesy; Olympia Community Solar

According to Mason Rolph, president of OCS, once solar panels are installed on a home, the panels will begin to create energy for the home and beyond. Any excess energy produced from the panels will travel to the local energy company to help power additional homes. Rolph says that after solar panel installation, homeowners may still receive a monthly electric bill, but it will likely be significantly reduced.

“I imagine solar like a bucket,” says Rolph. “It’s filling with energy from either the utility or from the solar array and if there’s extra energy, it overflows into the utility system. If your energy overflows to the utility, they provide you with credits that you can use at another time.”

The mission of OCS is to help the local community to access cleaner energy sources. As a part of their mission, OCS works at a policy level to help encourage clean energy sources, while also developing community clean energy projects and removing barriers for local homeowners interested in solar panel installation. The Solarize Campaign is one way that OCS is able to help homeowners and small businesses access solar in a discounted and affordable manner.

Initially emerging out of Portland, Oregon, annual Solarize Campaigns have now spread throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. This year will mark OCS’s second Solarize Campaign. During OCS’s first campaign, over 120 households in Thurston County were able to install solar panels at their home. During this year’s upcoming campaign, the OCS team anticipates an even larger demand for solar installation.

The 2022 Solarize Campaign will have multiple facets, including homeowner education, consultations, and ultimately solar installations. OCS has vetted and partnered with local solar suppliers, installers and financial institutions to provide consultations, installation and financing for homeowners who are interested in solar energy. Through the Solarize Campaign, interested homeowners can purchase and install solar panels at a lower price, compared to if a homeowner installed panels independently.

house with solar panels on the roof
OCS has joined with a number community partners for the Solarize Campaign, including installation partners, South Sound Solar, Sunset Air, PacWest Solar, and Capstone Solar and lending partners like Olympia Federal Savings. Photo courtesy; Olympia Community Solar

“The Solarize Campaign focuses on creating pathways past all those barriers,” says Ben Silesky, program director for OCS. “So, by purchasing all this equipment in bulk, we’re able to lower the overall cost of the installation, because the material is just a lot cheaper to buy in bulk. It also saves time for the installers because all of the lead generation and marketing are done for them by OCS, who does all of the community education and outreach.”

Partners for a Greener World

In addition to supply and installation partners, OCS has also joined with lending partners, like OlyFed, to help make solar panels more accessible to local homeowners. OlyFed has long been committed to providing financial services for environmentally-conscious homeowners and small business owners.

This includes providing financing for green building and energy-efficient home projects. Through the Green Choice Retrofit Home Equity Loan Program , homeowners can participate in the Solarize Campaign and finance solar and any associated costs or additional energy efficient projects like a new roof and windows, ductless heating, tankless water heaters and so much more. Whitlow says OlyFed has a dedicated team of knowledgeable loan officers who can help guide homeowners through the environmental home loan process and it have a dedicated lender contact specifically for the Solarize Campaign.

The 2022 Solarize Campaign will officially launch in early April. Interested homeowners can join the waitlist and will be contacted about a solar panel consultation after the campaign begins. To learn more about the Solarize Campaign, or to get involved, visit the Olympia Community Solar website. To learn more about green lending options, visit the OlyFed website.

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