There’s a little apartment building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle that is doing a whole lot of good. The three-story building called Holiday Apartments (identifiable by its clock and sunburst design on the building’s side) holds thirty affordably-priced apartment units. But that’s not all. On the roof of the Holiday Apartments is a solar farm, and while that might not seem like big news either, it’s how these solar panels are being used and how they are being funded that has piqued our interest.
Solar power is well-documented as being a pricey endeavor. It’s not something that you can jump into without a significant amount of capital at the front end. Sure, solar power has been making people money, even in the known-to-be-rainy city of Seattle, but it’s a tough pill to swallow for some potential investors.
To get around this common hesitation, everyday residents of the city are able to buy into the solar farm on the roof of the Holiday Apartments. The clean energy that is produced from these panels goes back into the power grid for everyone to enjoy, and those footing the bill get a taste of the action through reduced electricity bills. So these people save some money in the long run (granted, this isn’t an incredibly prosperous venture), and they are also helping the city’s power grid too. And instead of the buy-in being tens of thousands of dollars for these investors, the minimum buy-in for the Holiday farm is only $150 which buys a 28-watt slice of the program’s 25,000 watt capacity. This is an attempt to get more people involved with the funding of solar power for the city, as well as to get more people interested in the long run. The idea is to help spread around some of the cost of solar investment and to provide a unique funding setup that others within and outside the city might adopt.
As of the beginning of this month, Seattle City Light customers have purchased about 85% of the over 900 available solar units. Even a few local businesses are getting in on the action and becoming “solar sponsors.” Something you might not expect, however, is that none of the residents of the apartment building itself are involved either because they cannot spare the money to buy-in or see the project as a sign of gentrification, and therefore a sign of higher rents to come. But even if tenants opt not to participate in the program they will still reap some benefit when ownership of the rooftop solar array transfers to the Holiday Apartments, giving residents a sizable reduction in their electricity bills.
It’s both promising and distressing that the Holiday Apartments’ solar farm is on top of what the city considers “affordable” living. Its benefits are readily available and able to be used by the general public, on the one hand. But this project has shown that even at a heavily discounted rate, not everyone is on board with solar power just yet.
Those that are involved are reaping some monetary benefit, and the power generated from their panels goes into the overall power grid for everyone, which is nice. But we are still going to see issues with a widespread adoption of solar power until the overall cost of these panels goes down a bit. But once that happens, we can expect to see a broader range of Americans partaking in community solar.