Solar is in Trouble in Washington

In March Klickitat PUD capped out their solar incentive program. Just last week Benton REA closed their program to new participants. Little by little the rural utilities we work with in Washington State are reaching their Production Incentive cap of .5% of annual taxable power sales. We just got this letter from our Washington State Solar Trade group – Solar Installers of Washington that explains the situation and gives you some ways to help:

September 24, 2015


Solar installations in Washington have been booming thanks to a successful incentive program. Now several utilities in Washington report that they are close to hitting their solar production incentive pay-out caps.

This means that the amount of annual production incentive you receive could be reduced, depending on your utility and depending on what happens in the upcoming legislative session.

Installers are just being notified of this issue in the Seattle and PSE service territories. The existing production incentive program lacks transparency so it’s difficult to know for certain where each utility is in relation to its cap. Some small public utilities have already reached theirs. Some of these have closed their incentive programs to new applicants.

The primary cause of this situation is the rapid deployment of solar throughout Washington. Additionally, homeowners are installing larger solar systems and using Made-in-Washington equipment, with a higher incentive rate. Finally, a sunnier and milder winter and spring than forecast resulted in more solar production and less revenue for utilities.


SIW is actively working on a solution. We are engaging with leaders in the state Legislature and with utility representatives to pass a new solar incentive bill. The 2016 legislative session begins in January. It is critical to the future of state solar incentives that we pass a bill this session, both for current and future solar customers.

A bill to raise the overall cap was introduced during the 2015 legislative session but did not pass. We need your help now.


Lawmakers need to hear from customers who may be impacted by the rate reduction:

1) MOST EFFECTIVE: Call or email your local officials with a personalized plea for their support. You can find their contact information at

2) VERY EFFECTIVE: Fill out this Letter Campaign to automatically send a message to your local officials based on your address.

3) STILL EFFECTIVE: Contact your utility and let them know you want to see the solar incentive program extended. Please ask them to support solar legislation in 2016.

4) STILL EFFECTIVE: Fill out this Petition to the Committee Chairs who will eventually oversee the bill.

Speaking directly with your local representatives is most effective, but this certainly helps.

Incentive Cap RevFinal

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Breaking SolarWorld Solar Panels

Yes, they really did break dance on the solar panels at the SolarWorld Installer Summit. No, they did not break.

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Discovery Center Solar Array Dedication

On August 28th at 10am the solar array we installed for the Bonneville Environmental Foundation at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles, OR will be dedicated.

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center
5000 Discovery Drive
The Dalles, OR 97058

Here’s the Discovery Center announcement:

Join us as we officially dedicate our new Renewable Energy Exhibit with a ribbon cutting. The exhibit, funded by Google and Bonneville Environmental Foundation, adds to the available power utilized by the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum, and provides an educational opportunity on using solar power as a renewable energy resource. The exhibit is in three locations; the Solar Pavilion, sponsored by Google, is an interpretive exhibit on renewable energy that includes schematics of solar energy systems and a real-time display inside the museum of solar energy being produced. The Bonneville Foundation sponsored exhibit on renewable energy is an interactive display that highlights alternative energy sources.

This exhibit was made possible in part through a $50,000 grant provided by Google and a $25,000 grant provided by Bonneville Environmental Foundation. The project was planned by the Delta Energy Club at Columbia Gorge Community College, and installed by Hire Electric.

Coffee, punch and cookies provided. The event is free to the public.

Sorensen Construction (aka Common Energy) built an amazing wood frame pavilion that we installed 10 – SolarWorld 270 watt solar panels on with Enphase M250 micro inverters. The system ties into the main museum electrical distribution and helps to reduce their bill and provide an alternative energy education opportunity for museum goers.

Discovery Center Solar

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Our Favorite Tweets

This is what summer at Hire Electric looks like through the eyes of our twitter feed:







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Washington & Oregon Defer Arc-Fault and Rapid Shutdown Rulings

From WA L&I “Electrical Currents” May 2015 Newsletter:

Note From the Chief – Solar Photovoltaic Rules Delayed
After extensive research into product availability, and feedback from
stakeholders, in accordance with National Electrical Code® (NEC®) 90.4, I
have made the decision to extend the delay in implementation of three
requirements for Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems until July 1, 2016. The
three requirements are 690.11 Arc-Fault Circuit Protection (Direct Current),
690.12 Rapid Shutdown of PV Systems on Buildings, and 705.12(D)(6) Wire
Harness and Exposed Cable Arc-Fault Protection. Oregon has a similar delay
in implementation of these rules. This approach will ensure that the
products currently under development to meet these requirements will be
certified by an accredited product testing laboratory as meeting appropriate
electrical product safety standards. Enforcement of these requirements will
begin July 1, 2016. Due to the delay in implementation of 690.12 Rapid
Shutdown requirements, the 2011 NEC® 690.31(E)(1) requirement to route
Direct-Current PV source and output circuits at least 10 inches below roof
decking or sheathing when installed inside a building will be enforced until
the Rapid Shutdown requirement takes effect on July 1, 2016.

This ruling is a sigh of relief. Whenever new technology is implemented to solve a perceived problem the first few month (years) of implementation can be very painful as the technology struggles to provide a real wold solution. This ruling by Washington State will allow the industry to catch up technically with the code and hopefully come out with a reliable, cost effective solution in the mean time.

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Solarizing the Planet – Starting with Your House

Why solar maters for the modern world.

We were asked to give a solar talk at the Tri Cities TriConf2015
Day/Time: Saturday July, 8 @ 10:00 am
Length: 20 minutes (lots of Q&A)
Track: Community/Issues/Sustainability
Location: Richland Public Library, Room A

Richland Solar Home

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Electrathon Rally at CBC Pasco, April 25th, 2015

When: April 25th, 2015. Annual Event.

From 8:00 AM until 4:00 PM

Where: CBC Parking Lot
2600 N. 20th Avenue
Saraceno Way off of W. Argent (North side)
Pasco, Washington  99301
United States

Todd Blackman

Todd Blackman
Phone: 509-539-8078

Mid-Columbia Electric Vehicle Association
Garrett Brown, President
Cell Phone:  509-713-0806Electric Auto Association

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Solar Back-Up Without Batteries

SMA Sunny Boy inverters allow up to 1500W of back up power for when the sun is shining and the grid is down. This revolutionary new technology give homeowners added security and value from their grid tied solar array. Watch this short video to find out how it works:

To find out what items you can run with this back up receptacle you can use this handy Wattage Calculator from Consumer Reports.

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Solar Seminar In Pendleton, OR Feb 26

Pendleton has an exciting history of utilizing renewable resources. Hire Electric is pleased to partner with the city in offering an informational seminar on the benefits of going solar in Eastern Oregon. We’ll be meeting at the Pendleton Convention Center, 1600 Westgate Avenue, new east wing conference room. Date: Thursday, 2/26.  Time: 6 pm to 8 pm.

Come find out about the incentives that are still available:

  • $.75/watt from Energy Trust of Oregon
  • $6000 Residential Energy Tax Credit – off your Oregon State Taxes
  • 30% Federal Tax Credit
  • 0% Interest Loan Program from the City of Pendleton

Find out more here: img-i-helped-solarize-pendleton-orPNG

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GO! Solar in The Gorge! Kickoff Feb 3rd.

Hire Electric is super excited to be part of this great campaign to solarize our community.

Sign up for GO! Solar by March 30 to take advantage of bulk discounts.

With support from Northwest Solar Communities, Gorge Owned (GO!) is working with local solar contractors to offer discounted, bulk rates on solar panel installations to Gorge homeowners in Klickitat, Skamania, Wasco and Hood River counties.

GO! Solar is a community “solarize” initiative aimed at helping Columbia River Gorge homeowners overcome the barriers associated with investing in solar power. Local contractors and suppliers are working together to offer a simplified process and unbeatable prices. In addition to state, federal and local incentives, GO! Solar can reduce total project cost by up to 20%. The catch: Homeowners have to sign up for the program no later than March 30, 2015 to guarantee the bulk discounts.

“Going solar pays off in a number of ways,” says Amanda Lawrence, Gorge Owned Membership and Program Director. “It reduces your monthly utility bills, increases your home value, reduces your dependence on fossil fuel and, if done through GO! Solar, supports the local economy.”

Learn more about GO! Solar at a community launch party, Tuesday, February 3, from 6-8 pm, at Full Sail Brew Pub (506 Columbia St., Hood River). Learn about financial incentives for solar, meet the local contractors delivering the program and have your questions about solar answered by regional experts. Participants can also enjoy light appetizers and beer courtesy of Full Sail.

Gorge Owned is planning additional events in Klickitat and Wasco Counties in February. Details will be announced


Event Details

What: GO! Solar Launch Party

When: Tuesday, Feb., 3, 2015, 6-8 pm

Where: Full Sail Brew Pub, 506 Columbia St., Hood River  

Follow Up Meetings: 

  • February 10th, The Dalles, Clocktower Ales, 311 Union Street from 6pm – 7:30pm
  • February 12th, White Salmon, Columbia Bank Community Room, 390 NE Tohomish St, 6pm – 7pm
  • February 17th, Goldendale, Klickitat PUD Community Room, 1313 South Columbus Avenue 6pm – 7:30pm

About Gorge Owned

Gorge Owned is a 501.c.3 member-supported organization with a mission to strengthen connections between the people, natural environment and economy of the Columbia River Gorge. With more than 200 individual and business members, GO! delivers year-round programing that informs and inspires people to invest in a vibrant community, healthy environment and strong local economy. Programs include Gorge Green Drinks, Sense of Place Lecture Series, GO! Local Campaign, and Gorge Earth Day.

Learn More:

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