Solar Nerd: Does Solar Power Work In Seattle?

(Sustainable West Seattle is pleased to introduce a new original series: Solar Nerd.  Solar Nerd is Eric Thomas, owner and proprietor of Solar Epiphany, a West Seattle (6016 B California Ave SW) provider of  solar education, installation and advocacy).

Does Solar Power Work In Seattle?   Natürlich!

A headline recently came across my desk that blew my socks off. It read, “Germany Adds Nearly 1% of Electricity Supply with Solar in Eight Months.”   Nearly 1%!

Geez! At that rate, they could theoretically cover 100% of their electricity needs in ~66 years. That’s amazing. Now, me being a solar nerd, I had to look into the specifics of this. In my initial Solar Power Post here on the Sustainable West Seattle site I’m going to share with you my findings.

Now, I already knew that Germany gets about the same or even a little less sun than we do here in Seattle (See image below).

But as I was putting together more background stats for this posting, I was hit with a HUGE realization….(an Epiphany, if you will☺)

Follow my statistical path to enlightenment:

Stat 1-Population: Germany has a massive population of 82 million people. Seattle’s sitting at 602 thousand residents or less than 1% ( .07%) of Germany.

Stat 2-Land Mass: Germany covers 137,847 square miles. Seattle’s 91.5 square miles is hardly comparable at .006% !

Stat 3-Electrical Use/Year: Germany’s electrical usage is 512.9 billion kWh’s per year. Seattle came in at 9.6 billion kWh’s per year which equals approximately ~1.87%…..Wait….WHAT?

In the last eight months, had Germany really added enough solar power to cover half of Seattle’s electrical usage? This is profound and goes directly to the point that solar works here is our lovely climate. Germany’s huge solar deployment can be traced to a great incentive that pays a “tariff” ($$) for all solar electricity that an individual or business produces. If you put up solar panels in Germany, you will be paid for all of the electricity you produce for the next 20 years. A point to be made here is that Washington has a similar incentive in place that also pays you for all of the solar electricity your produce, but also pays more than Germany’s incentive. Although our incentive only pays you for your solar electricity until 2020, using Made in Washington solar components will give you a full payback on your solar investment in 8-9 years*.

So does solar work here in Seattle? The evidence is playing out right now in a climate that nearly matches ours. The incentive’s are similar and, if using Made in WA equipment, are even better here. What’s left to prove?

“If You’ve Realized…Run With It.” – Eric Thomas

*Fine Print: Every installation is unique. To teach our community about solar payback, Solar Epiphany offers free solar education classes to those interested. Please visit www.solarepiphany.com to sign up. And as always…our classes are sales-pitch free.
3 replies
  1. stu
    stu says:

    It would be possible for so many if the individual solar array and installation was handled like a energy company. You would then be able to pay your monthly energy bills to the company that installed your solar unit. I didn’t have the capital for the Diablo Dam either but that’s who I pay my energy bills to. Some minimal up front capital by comparison to the dam projects would get things going and the monthly bills would carry the cash flow.

    Reply
  2. solarepiphany
    solarepiphany says:

    That sounds like a great way to deploy solar on a larger scale. There are some local options for doing just what you mentioned. Community Solar installations offer a way to reduce upfront costs by up to 20% and provide a substantial ROI. Pressure on our WA legislatures is also helpful. Afterall, in Oregon and New Jersey, State and Federal incentives can pay for up to 60-70% of the entire cost of going solar.

    What we don’t want is an energy company centralizing solar power plants, then selling us the electricity. That defeats one of the main points of solar power; its distributed nature. Sunlight is evenly distributed across the world and as such is the most democratic form of energy. Right now, utilities have a monopoly on power for our homes. That is a serious situation that could one day leave us in the dark.

    Reply
  3. Bill Reiswig
    Bill Reiswig says:

    Eric; Great post. I look forward to more.

    I agree that we do not want solar to be primarily in centralized plants… this just means transmission systems that add more embedded energy to solar power and a less democratic energy system.

    It’s impressive to see what Germany has been able to do with renewables. I hope that governments can continue to boost support for renewable in an era of what looks like very very tight budgets.

    Keep up the good work!

    Bill

    Reply

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