EVERETT — South Everett is getting a new solar array, courtesy of the Snohomish County Public Utility District.
The project will sit on city of Everett property next to Walter E. Hall Park, overlooking a skate park. It will have the capacity to generate 375 kilowatts, enough to power about 40 homes. The Everett City Council unanimously approved a lease last month.
The state Clean Energy Fund is contributing over $861,000 to the project, as part of a low-income community solar deployment program. The total cost is estimated to be about $1.5 million.
Project manager Suzy Oversvee said she was “super excited” to see all the benefits of the project. It will help people in need with their bills, educate locals about clean energy and increase the reliability of the electrical grid in south Everett.
Appealing to various stakeholders in the community, she said, “I think that’s just an awesome way to build a project.”
Funds generated by the array will go to Project PRIDE (Providing Relief for Individuals Dependent on Energy), an income-qualified program that currently helps about 500 customers a year with their utility bills.
The program, administered by non-profit St. Vincent de Paul, raised about $90,000 last year from ratepayers who voluntarily chose to donate a few dollars or more with their regular bill.
Energy credits from the solar array could pitch in another $27,600, according to early estimates. That will let Project PRIDE help more people.
Located on Casino Road, the array will also offer relief to the local grid. Circuits in that area sometimes get strained during the summer months, Oversvee said.
“This project will allow us to power more homes and businesses with clean energy and help our most vulnerable customers at the same time,” John Haarlow, the PUD’s CEO and general manager, said in a statement. “We’re excited to work with the City of Everett to bring clean solar power to the Casino Road neighborhood.”
“We’re proud to partner with the PUD on this project that will generate renewable solar energy and offset utility costs for income-qualified households,” Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin said.
With its high visibility, Oversvee sees the solar array as an opportunity to educate and reach out to locals, too. Most people in the area live in multi-family housing and can’t take advantage of clean energy themselves, she said.
There will be educational displays, PUD spokesperson Aaron Swaney said, as well as opportunities to talk with the people about clean energy and how it can contribute to grid resiliency.
“For us, it’s a great opportunity to engage with the public and talk about all these amazing things,” he said.
If all goes well, the project will break ground later this year and could be operational as soon as next year. But with supply chain issues, that timeline isn’t very strict, Oversvee said.
“Fingers crossed,” she said.
This will be PUD’s second solar array. The first was completed near Arlington in 2019. That array, paid for partly through public investment, is linked to the PUD’s experimental microgrid, using lithium-ion batteries for storage.
And before you ask, yes, solar can work in Western Washington, Swaney said. And there’s increasing interest in developing more of it.
“A lot of people think that because the sun doesn’t always shine here — we do have a lot of cloudy days — that solar doesn’t work,” he said. “But it does work.”