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Winthrop Community Solar Project

Winthrop Solar photo

Photo Courtesy of Ellen Lamiman,
Energy Solutions

Background: Following the 2010 successful launch of Okanogan County Electric Cooperative’s (OCEC) community solar project utilizing the WA State cost recovery program, co-op members, who had been unable to participate, were eager to build another community solar system.

The project’s design/management firm, Energy Solutions, solicited the Town of Winthrop as project “host,” and the Partnership for a Sustainable Methow (PSM) to agreed to act as project administrator. As a 501-c3 nonprofit organization PSM was eligible for a Nonprofit Notification of Claim of Exemption (to register securities transactions) from the Washington State Division of Securities. This exemption allowed PSM to offer ownerships in the community solar system to members, contributors, volunteers, or participants in the organization’s sponsored events, or to such person’s relatives. In the spring of 2011 the opportunity to participate was announced through local press, radio, and the PSM website. Applications were processed on a first come, first served basis, ultimately attracting 49 investors to fully fund the community solar project in just six weeks. Investment levels ranged from $500 to $15,000, with investors participating at all levels.  

It is important to note that participating investors were not eligible to claim the 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit. However, the high community solar energy production incentive in Washington State for locally manufactured solar systems partly made up for the loss of the tax credit. When the production incentive expires in June 2020, project ownership will be transferred to the Town of Winthrop.

Project Highlights
  • System Owner: Participating OCEC members
  • System Administrator: Partnership for a Sustainable Methow 
  • System Host: Town of Winthrop at wastewater treatment plant property
  • Installed Capacity: 22.8 kW in 5 ground mounted arrays
  • Estimated average annual energy production: 29,500 kWh
  • System Operational: June 30, 2011
  • Web-based monitoring: http://home.solarlog-web.net/101.html
  • Participant Agreement: Ownership percentage of total project cost, purchased in $500 increments up to $15,000.  Investors sign an ownership contract with PSM, which receives owners’ investments, pays project bills, and distributes the annual production incentive to the owners through June 2020 when the WA State community solar incentive ends.  Ownership of system will then be transferred to project host, the Town of Winthrop.
  • Electricity: Net metering benefits accrue to Town of Winthrop (host), production incentive benefits accrue to participating OCEC members 
  • RECs: Remain with participating OCEC members
  • Number of Participants: 49 investors

Financing Details

  • Installed Cost: $200,000 or $8.77/watt (cost to investors $9.64/watt, includes 9 years of insurance, bookkeeping and administration costs)
  • Capital Financing: Project financed with owner investments, secured prior to construction
  • Tax Credits: None, the credit cannot be claimed when the installation is not a business venture or is not placed on an owner’s residential property
  • Grants: None
  • Rebates: None
  • Estimated Annual Payment to Participants: $72 per $500 of investment  
  • Estimated Total ROI: 30% by mid-2020

For more information: Ellen Lamiman, elamiman@silicon-energy.com, (425) 320-6063; www.sustainablemethow.net

 

 

 
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