More Greenbank solar panels soon to be installed

The racks stand awaiting solar panels at the Greenbank Farm, which will soon be installed. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
The racks stand awaiting solar panels at the Greenbank Farm, which will soon be installed.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

Organizers of the latest community solar project are one investor away from being able to start installing panels on the last part of the arrays at the Greenbank Farm.

Hans Fredrickson, owner of Fredrickson Electric, is rounding up 16 Puget Sound Energy customers to invest in the latest community solar energy project at the publicly owned farm. He visited the Greenbank Farm during the Farm Tour last weekend to convince potential investors. He said he hopes to have the last one on board in the next day or so. Once that is finished,  installation of the panels can begin.

Fredrickson Electric is a Port Townsend company contracted by Newport Equity Fund — Greenbank Farm — LLC, to round up investors and install the panels of three arrays at the publicly owned farm.

Once complete, the Greenbank community solar project will be one of the largest in the state, Fredrickson said.

Three lines of racks awaiting panels are currently standing at Greenbank Farm between the farm buildings and Highway 525. Those racks were installed earlier in the summer.

Fredrickson said progress in finding investors was slowed a bit because Puget Sound Energy wanted to validate the list of investors to make sure they were separate customers. Apparently in similar community solar projects throughout the state, some of the investors were married but investing separately. He said all of the investors participating in the Newport project at the Greenbank Farm meet requirements.

There are three groups who have installed solar arrays that comprise one acre of land at the Greenbank Farm. Island Community Solar has two arrays that went into operation last year while Cascade Community Wind has one array that became operational earlier in the summer. The Newport project will take up the remaining space for three arrays, which will fill the space allotted for solar energy. In all, the community solar projects at the Greenbank Farm will produce around 150,000 kilowatt hours per year.

The community solar projects sprang up because of recent legislation that provides up to $1.08 per kilowatt hour incentive, which is scheduled to expire in 2020.

Jim Patton, executive director for the Port of Coupeville, which owns the Greenbank Farm, said that once the project is complete, the solar energy will offset the power consumed by the Greenbank Farm. The port will receive compensation through the leases it has with the three groups, which will bring in about $3,000 a year.

Fredrickson needed 16 investors because it allows a maximum return of investment under the legislation, which is $5,000. The three panels are expected to generate 75,000 kilowatt hours, which would bring in about $80,000.

Once complete, Fredrickson said it’s unlikely many more similar solar projects will be built because of the expiration of the incentive. As that 2020 date draws near, the return on investment will diminish.


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