Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sorry Tri-Cities, Benton REA Reaches Limit For Washington State Solar Incentive

BY: Eugene Wilkie

As a local Tri-Cities solar company we are disheartened that we have to inform our customers in the Benton Rural Electric Association,  Benton REA has joined the list of Washington utilities that is ending the Washington State Cost Recovery Incentive Program. (Please see notice below) It is due to the fact that they have reached their limit and can no longer accept applications. For our company NOW SOLAR LLC and Absolute Power Inc it has a large impact as we have current customers in this utility area that will no longer be eligible.

A little background on the incentive is basically customers can receive up to $5000 a year until June 2020. (Please see the full incentive description below) It has been an amazing boost for us as it allows the customer to pay off a system that maximizes the incentives in about 3-4 years and for larger systems 5-6 years. Unfortunately we will no longer be able to offer this to our Benton REA Customers.

We would encourage anyone in the remaining utilities such as Franklin PUD, Benton PUD, and the city of Richland to  investigate the prospect of solar sooner than later as they are seeing rapid growth in the amount of solar installs in their districts and they have the same cap. We are grateful to the Tri-Cities for the interest in solar and are sorry to see the opportunities for Benton REA customers come to an end.

We would like to take the opportunity to encourage everyone to call your legislature and encourage them in January to lift the cap up from one-half of a percent of taxable sales to a more realistic number. We have kept our margins low combined with the incentive as we really believe that any home owner should have the ability to cost effectively be energy independent. The Washington State Incentive does this very effectively. Solar is one of the few energy technologies that makes sense for both the utility as well as the home or business owner.
In May 2005, Washington enacted Senate Bill 5101, establishing production incentives for individuals, businesses, and local governments that generate electricity from solar power, wind power or anaerobic digesters. The incentive amount paid to the producer starts at a base rate of $0.15 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and is adjusted by multiplying the incentive by the following factors:
  • For electricity produced using solar modules manufactured in Washington state: 2.4
  • For electricity produced using a solar or wind generator equipped with an inverter manufactured in Washington state: 1.2
  • For electricity produced using both solar modules and an inverter manufactured in Washington state: 3.6
  • For electricity produced using an anaerobic digester, by other solar equipment, or using a wind generator equipped with blades manufactured in Washington state: 1.0
  • For all other electricity produced by wind: 0.8
These multipliers result in production incentives ranging from $0.12 to $0.54/kWh, capped at $5,000 per year. Ownership of the renewable-energy credits (RECs) associated with generation remains with the customer-generator and does not transfer to the state or utility.
This incentive applies to both single-owned systems and community solar projects. To be eligible for a single-owned system, the person that owns the system must also own the property it is installed on and be a customer of the utility that serves the site of the property. The base rate is $0.15 kWh, adjusted by the multipliers for technology types and in-state manufactured components.
Community solar projects are able to receive the production incentive, and are defined as solar energy systems up to 75 kilowatts (kW) that are owned by local entities and placed on local government property, or owned by utilities if the utility has annual sales no greater than 1,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) and if the project is funded voluntarily by utility ratepayers. Projects on local government property that are owned by limited liability companies, cooperatives, or mutual corporations or associations are also able to receive the incentive. The company itself is not eligible, but members may take advantage of the incentive. The base rate for community solar projects is $0.30/kWh and the multipliers are the same as those used for other renewable energy technologies. Each participant in a community solar project, or each owner of a project, can apply to receive this incentive and may receive up to $5,000 per year.
The state's utilities will pay the incentives and earn a tax credit equal to the cost of those payments. The credit cannot exceed the greater of $100,000 or 0.5% of a utility’s taxable power sales. Incentive payments to community solar projects cannot exceed 25% of the total allowable credit. The incentive amount may be uniformly reduced if requests for the incentive exceed the available funds.
The incentives apply to power generated as of July 1, 2005, and remain in effect through June 30, 2020. A utility may not claim any tax credits for incentive payments after June 30, 2021.
Click here for the Department of Revenue (DOR) renewable energy system certification form and here for the community solar project certification form. Click here for the DOR annual incentive payment application and here for the DOR annual incentive payment application for community solar projects.



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