More than 1,200 members responded to an online survey about Community Solar, measuring preferences, appetite and collecting narrative comments. In a nutshell, the membership is very interested in Community Solar so long as it doesn’t affect rates. A request for proposals was published in September for solar installers interested in designing and building the project.
OPALCO’s community solar project will give co-op members an opportunity to purchase units of the large solar array and receive monthly bill credits based on the production of their units. The project will be constructed at OPALCO’s substation on Decatur Island. Planning is underway in 2017 with construction beginning in 2018. Project details such as cost, return on investment and number of units available will be published by January, which is when we expect members can begin to purchase units.
What OPALCO learned from the survey is that members would like more info about solar in general and the project details. Members want frequent project updates, primarily on the website. Of those surveyed, 61% would invest at least $150, 35% would invest at least $450 and others wrote in amounts in the thousands. Members are motivated primarily by financial factors: return on investment, out-of-pocket costs and affordability compared to rooftop solar. Comments show support for carbon reduction, community sustainability and creating a model for others. Project aesthetics were less of a concern; see full survey report in the Resource Library at www.opalco.com (Governance and Finance / Member Surveys).
Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO) is our member-owned cooperative electric utility, serving more than 11,000 members on 20 islands in San Juan County. OPALCO provides electricity that is 95% greenhouse-gas free and is generated predominantly by hydroelectric plants. OPALCO was founded in 1937.