Utility PSE Awards Solar Grants To Community Groups

Washington-based utility Puget Sound Energy (PSE) says it is ringing in the new year by giving five organizations in its service area the gift of green energy. The recipients are organizations that are either food distribution centers or emergency warming shelters in their respective communities.

Specifically, PSE is donating $350,000 to install solar panels at Northwest Harvest in Kent, Community Action of Skagit County, Island Senior Resources, Salvation Army Bremerton and the Upper Kittitas County Senior Center. All five projects will be installed by June.

“Whether it’s providing food or emergency shelter, the organizations that were selected have a history of helping people in their communities, which is aligned with what’s important to PSE,” says Bob Stolarski, PSE director of customer energy management and renewables. “We’re excited that funding these solar projects will help reduce the energy costs for our recipients, so they can put more money toward supporting their core mission while helping to reduce their carbon footprint.”

According to PSE, the grants will allow each organization to meet at least 10% of their load with solar energy. These organizations will receive not only energy savings, but also eight years of renewable energy production incentive payments from the state.

Northwest Harvest, a statewide nonprofit distributor serving over 370 food banks, meal programs and high-need schools, will be able to reduce its operating budget by over $5,000 per year with the installation of its solar panels. In addition, this 75 kW project will result in approximately $34,000 in state incentives over eight years. This would be a cumulative savings of $145,000 over the next 15 years.

“Northwest Harvest is very appreciative of this grant from PSE,” says Thomas Reynolds, Northwest Harvest’s CEO. “We know that for every dollar we can save in keeping our lights on and our food cold, is an extra dollar that goes toward helping feed those in our community who are suffering from hunger.”

The Salvation Army Bremerton Corps serves youth and low-income community members in Kitsap County. Its 14 kW solar project will help the organization save more than $1,300 a year and generate more than $1,400 in annual state production incentives through 2026 – money that the organization can put toward program costs that more directly help the community.

“Our operating funds for each budget year are raised in that year,” says Major Scott Ramsey with the Salvation Army. “Ongoing fundraising is part of our daily reality to keep programs open and operating to serve those in need. Any money saved in building operation is put right into programs serving the basic needs of the homeless and needy of our community. We are so appreciative of PSE for their willingness to support our work in this way.”

According to PSE, solar panels will also help Community Action of Skagit County to save more than $2,000 a year on its electric bills and will generate more than $17,000 from state production incentive payments. These savings and incentive payments will allow the organization to put more money toward its core mission of serving Skagit and Northern Island Counties as their emergency food distribution facility – distributing 2.5 million pounds of food annually to organizations that feed the hungry.

“This solar project, coupled with the PSE-funded generator, will equip the region with a central distribution center mobilized to assist with disaster response in addition to the daily disaster of food insecurity in our region,” says Cole Bitzenburg, community food access manager for Community Action of Skagit County.

Island Senior Resources, the primary provider of services for seniors in Island County, says the solar project will help it to direct more revenue toward support of the fast-growing senior population in the area. Over a 25-year period, this project will allow the organization to redirect $100,000 to underwrite needed resources.

“Every dollar saved in defraying the cost of energy through solar power production means that there will be increased capacity to serve the growing senior population in Island County,” says Island Senior Resources Executive Director Cheryn Weiser. “We are thrilled with the opportunity to join the solar power community.”

The Upper Kittitas County Senior Center’s mission is to enhance the physical, emotional and economic well-being of seniors’ lives in Kittitas County, and it serves as an emergency shelter. Its 18 kW solar project is expected to save the organization approximately $3,700 each year.

“We appreciate the Puget Sound Energy grant,” says Upper Kittitas County Senior Center President Susan Klein. “It means a lot for our center and our community. Solar panels will help with our energy costs and will definitely be a plus for the Center.”

With the exception of Northwest Harvest, which already had a generator, all of the others were also recipients of grants for high-powered generators from the PSE Foundation.

PSE notes it is committed to reducing its carbon footprint 50% by 2040, and the utility says these solar projects are another step it is taking with the community to preserve and protect the environment for future generations.

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