Seattle Aquarium to moonlight as solar power provider

SEATTLE - Don't let the rain and the clouds fool you, Seattle City Light says this is the perfect place to harness the sun's power, and a new partnership with the Seattle Aquarium could soon give interested customers a break on their utility bill.

City Light recently announced plans to install a series of solar panels on the Aquarium's roof as part of its Community Solar program. The installation will be the largest solar array at any West Coast aquarium and allow residents who may not be able to install or afford panels of their own some solar purchasing power, City Light spokesperson Scott Thomsen says.

"They might live in condo or an apartment, maybe they don't have control of their own roof, or there isn't enough direct sun light," Thomsen says. "This is an opportunity to purchase a portion of the solar power output from the set of panels on the Aquarium and have it applied against your bill."

According to Thomsen, it will cost about $330,000 to install the panels and they will cover about two-thirds of the roof on the south side of the Aquarium. The goal is to have them up and running by the end September. City Light says partnering with the Aquarium is a good way to show residents and visitors how solar power can work in Seattle.

"We may have a rain city reputation but we get just as much, if not more sun as they do in Germany, which has the largest penetration of solar panels in the world," Thomsen says. "The Aquarium is an iconic location within Seattle with a lot of visibility. Residents and visitors will have the chance to see the panels easily on the rooftop."

The 49 kilowatt project is expected to produce enough energy to power roughly five and a half average-size homes in Seattle. Each 24 watt unit will cost customers $150, and City Light will allow each customer to purchase a maximum of 125 units.

Those who buy-in to the project will see a credit on their City Light bills along with production incentives provided by the state.

To participate in the Community Solar project you must be a Seattle City Light customer. Enrollment begins Sept. 1.

The installation at the Aquarium will mark City Light's second major solar powered project. The first project took place at Jefferson Park in Beacon Hill where City Light worked with Seattle Parks and Recreation to install three solar panel picnic shelters. Thomsen says more than 400 customers bought into that project.

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