By the Numbers – How Solar Is Transforming Seattle
On the surface, Seattle doesn’t seem like it would be a hotbed for solar power. After all, the city is infamous for its clouds and rain, so deriving power from the sun doesn’t make much sense, right? Well, not necessarily.
In terms of climate and sunlight, Seattle is not all that different from a slew of European cities that have embraced solar power far more than most American cities. Just because Seattle doesn’t have 300 days of sunshine every year like Florida doesn’t mean that solar power can’t work in The Emerald City.
How Much Sunlight
To be fair, Seattle is on the low end when it comes to the average annual solar radiation value compared to the rest of the country. However, despite significant disparity over the course of the year, Seattle does receive quite enough solar radiation during the summer months to make solar panels worthwhile.
From May to September, Seattle averages around 5-kilowatt hours per square meter per day (kWh/m2/day) or better. Over the course of the year, Seattle has an average annual solar radiation value of around 3.75 kWh/m2//day. This doesn’t compare well with other west coast cities of comparable size, but it’s enough to make solar worth exploring.
Costs and Perks
The biggest drawback to solar power is the large upfront costs for equipment and installation. However, there are both federal and state incentives that can help reduce the upfront costs of moving to solar power. It’s also possible to get financing on solar panels to defer some of the costs.
Once installed, solar panels can generate enough power to reduce or eliminate the amount of power a household must purchase from their local power company. In Seattle, the solar radiation during peak summer months creates enough of a surplus to make up for the winter months, allowing everything to even out over the course of the year.
In some instances, solar systems are grid-tied, so that any excess power can be moved back to the grid and the owner of the solar system is given credit towards future months when they may use more than they produce. Essentially, owners of solar systems are paid for the energy their panels produce, allowing them to pay little towards the monthly energy bill, or in some cases eradicating the ongoing cost completely.
In the event electricity prices increase, those with solar panels are going to be in a much better position, as they will produce most if not all their own electricity. Investing in the upfront costs of solar makes sense if you believe the cost of fossil fuels will increase in the decades to come.
Most importantly, utilizing solar power lessens the need for fossil fuels and therefore reduces the strain on the environment. This reason alone is enough to make solar power an intriguing possibility, even in a cloudy city like Seattle.