If you are not able to install solar panels on your roof but you want to support alternative energy and reduce your carbon footprint, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and Olympia High School (OHS) partnered to the option to subscribe to solar energy shares.
“The Community Solar Program was designed to make solar more accessible for customers,” says Leslie Myers, PSE product manager for renewables. “Olympia High School was the first of several projects. The program is designed in a way to increase access and remove barriers.” At the same time, the program helps those students learn about clean energy.
PSE Community Solar Shares at OHS Reduce Customers’ Carbon Footprints
Olympia School District agreed to host a solar array which PSE installed on the OHS roof. Myers says this green power project enables solar energy to be captured by the panels and added to the power grid. Through the Community Solar program, PSE electric customers can voluntarily subscribe to available “shares” of the project at $20 per month, replacing some or all of their regular electricity use with renewable energy. The energy generated by the shares is represented as energy credits on the customers’ monthly electric bills, offsetting a portion of their subscription cost.
“Community Solar is a flexible and convenient way for our electric customers to share the benefits of solar power without having to install solar panels,” says Myers. “Customers can subscribe to a local site of their choice and get a report yearly on their participation and the impact of their shares.”
OHS share subscriptions launched last year for its 532 solar panels providing 200 kilowatts of AC power (kWac). The OHS project is so successful that its approximately 135 shares were fully subscribed – sold out – in hours. “Based on that, we see that customers want this,” Myers says. “It tells us there is a demand out there.”
As a result, PSE created wait lists for subscriptions at Olympia and other Community Solar sites in Ellensburg and Issaquah. Customers looking to subscribe to the next available site can join an interest list for PSE’s newest site in Bonney Lake where construction is underway. Myers says PSE has also issued a Request for Information (RFI) for other potential sites.
The share subscription process is on the PSE website, which also explains the no-cost income-eligible single share option for PSE customers at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. This income-eligible plan can save up to $11 on a monthly electric bill or up to $132 annually.
Expect for the Bonney Lake shares to be released soon. While income-eligible shares at the Kittitas County site are still available, general shares at the remaining sites are fully subscribed. However, customers can get on the rolling wait list. “We are trying to get the word out on that,” Myers says. “We want to bring solar to neighborhoods and make it visible and present.”
“This is about reducing barriers and helping customers reap the benefits of solar,” Myers says.
Puget Sound Energy Community Solar Helps Students Learn How to Create a Clean Energy Future
Importantly, PSE’s partnership with OHS not also reduces carbon footprints, it also contributes to the school district’s mission encouraging students to be environmental stewards.
“We were excited to enter into this partnership, which will help students understand the merits of renewable energy solutions,” says Susan Gifford, OSD executive director of communications and community relations. Gifford explains that the project aligns with the district’s strategic planning, which calls for students to be critical thinkers who contribute to and collaborate with the local, global and natural world.
“Access to learning experiences that allow students to explore the world, understand complex data and solve societal issues at hand becomes a social justice opportunity,” adds Hannah Gbenro, OSD chief academic officer. “Hands-on, real-world learning is memorable for students, and the solar panels at OHS bring this opportunity to life for our students. This school year, the panels were installed, and one of our high school science teachers downloaded an initial data set to begin working with students. As our educators better understand the software and hardware capabilities, we anticipate the natural connections will become an expanded part of our courses within – and beyond – science.”
Matt Grant, Olympia High School principal, says even more is on the horizon. “There has been interest expressed in a variety of classes including Environmental Science and AP Stats (Advanced Placement Statistics),” he says. “Both of the teachers for these courses see some great potential in looking at data from our own building. I know our Climate Action Club may also be very interested because they have taken a local interest in our efforts to address climate change. Learning becomes more powerful when it is authentic and relevant. Our solar panels give us some real experiential opportunities to do just that.”
Gifford says the OSD also shared PSE-OHS project information on the district’s website, in newsletters to families and community members, social media platforms, board meetings and staff publications.
PSE is working to create a clean energy future and set an aspirational goal to be a Beyond Net Zero Carbon Company by 2045. For more information on PSE’s Community Solar program, check out its website.