RESIDENTIAL SOLAR IN SEATTLE
SOLAR AND THE NORTHWEST—A PERFECT MATCH!
Many people are surprised to learn that solar works at all in Washington, let alone works well. Washington’s climate is actually ideal for solar energy production. Our residential customers’ solar energy systems consistently outperform homeowners’ expectations.
How does solar in Seattle work? First, Washington’s long spring and summer days — providing many hours of sunlight, yet without excessively high temperatures—create perfect conditions for solar. Solar panels operate more efficiently in cooler weather. Believe it or not, a solar PV system produces more power here in the summer than in Southern California!
During the cloudy winter months, solar modules do keep on working, collecting diffuse light from all directions. Solar works in diffuse light; it does not take blue skies to create ample power. The sun’s energy is producing electricity whether we see it or not.
Although we get the most sun when we need power the least — in the summer — in Washington this actually works to your advantage, thanks to our state’s generous incentives. Most residential customers build energy credits in the summer, then use them up in the winter months to offset their more expensive winter bills.
This is made possible by net metering, an agreement with the local electric utility company that allows excess energy you produce (when your solar makes more than the household uses) to be fed back into the grid. This excess energy is then credited to your account, and you can use those credits when you are not producing as much as you need. For more on net metering, see Incentives and Financial Benefits.
Washington’s wet weather actually benefits solar as well. Most systems installed in our region are self-cleaning, because we get enough rainy days to keep the tempered glass clear of dust and debris from, supporting increased production over time.
Smart design using quality products can further capitalize on our existing advantages, maximizing production further.
Germany is currently the world’s largest producer of solar energy — and Seattle gets 15% more solar irradiance than Germany [Source: Energy.gov, Solar Works! In Seattle: Introduction to Solar Electric (PV) PDF]. Our biggest hurdle here is not lack of sun; it is education and political will. While we do not yet produce as much solar as Germany, we have a good foundation. Washington State has a pro-solar governor and one of the best incentive programs in the country. And we are doing all we can to educate Washingtonians about the accessibility and value of solar!