On Sept. 27, the Washington State Department of Commerce announced $35.4 million in grants to local, state, and tribal governments and non-profits to plan and install solar and battery back-up power systems at community buildings.
The projects will provide clean back-up power for critical community needs during power outages, including supporting emergency services, healthcare, and shelters. Outside of power outages, the systems will produce clean electricity that will save energy costs for the facility operators, and the systems may also reduce strain on the grid when usage is high.
“Power outages impact everyone differently – some of our most vulnerable community members face significant risks when the power goes out,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong. “These investments in solar power with battery back-up systems will help people receive the services they need most – whether that’s heating or cooling, medical care, or keeping devices charged so they can communicate and stay informed.”
According to the Dept. Of Commerce, funding for solar and battery storage projects is an important element of Washington state’s climate leadership, including commitment to a 100% clean electric grid free of carbon emissions by 2045.
“In addition to stewarding this state funding, Commerce is focused on maximizing every opportunity to capitalize on the historic amounts of federal clean energy funding currently available to states, including pursuing a state grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s $7-billion Solar for All initiative,” Fong said.
Some of the Solar Plus Storage grants announced will support planning and development work, such as feasibility studies, to prepare organizations to complete solar and battery storage projects in the future.
According to Commerce Assistance Director Michael Furze, some under-resourced communities have difficulty completing the planning and pre-development needed to even apply for a grant.
“There are unprecedented levels of funding from Washington state and the Federal Government to build clean energy projects and to build energy resilience. For the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, and many other communities that lack expertise and staff capacity around energy, access to funding for planning and pre-development work is critical to help communities participate in and benefit from a just transition to a clean energy economy,” said Robert Knapp, Environmental Planning Program Manager for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, one of the grant recipients.
A second group of awards will fund installation of solar and battery back-up equipment at community buildings, ranging from schools and senior centers to fire stations and hospitals.
The Solar plus Storage for Resilient Communities program provides competitive funding for projects at community buildings, including schools, community centers, libraries, and other buildings owned by local, state, tribal governments and non-profits in Washington. All grant funds are contingent upon execution of final project contracts with Commerce.
According to the Dept. Of Commerce, the selection process prioritized projects that will benefit populations most vulnerable to impacts from power outages and emergencies. These communities include highly impacted, lower-income, rural, and remote communities.
Solar projects in King County that were awarded grant funding include:
– $100,000 to the City of Carnation for “Light Up Carnation”
– $99,500 to the City of Issaquah to identify Issaquah resilience hubs to ensure strong and prepared communities
– $96,500 to the City of Renton for the Renton Community Center
– $46,796 to Sno-Valley Senior Citizens for Sno-Valley Solar
– $500,000 to City of Kent for the Kent Senior Center Solar plus Storage Project
– $1,500,000 to King County Facilities Management Division for Regional Communications and Emergency Coordination Center Solar + Storage
– $129,704 to Vashon United Methodist to help power emergency access for vulnerable populations