Grant to install solar at PUD

District also seeking broadband funds

PORT TOWNSEND — The funding sun is shining these days on the Jefferson County Public Utilities District.

The PUD’s new operations center at 310 Four Corners Road will have 266 solar panels affixed to its roof thanks to a $100,000 state Department of Commerce grant, PUD communications director Will O’Donnell said.

“We’re juggling a lot of projects right now, (so) we’re looking at this summer or next spring” for installation of the 100-kilowatt solar array.

The PUD will issue a request for bids from solar contractors around the region, he added.

The harvested sunlight will supply energy for the operations center, a roughly 9,000-square-foot building.

A solar array-friendly rooftop was part of the building design, O’Donnell said — and once the panels are up, they should lower the PUD’s monthly bill significantly.

“Even though we’re the power company, we pay our own power bill,” he quipped.

He couldn’t give an average monthly amount because, he said, the building is still new, having opened last spring, and many of the PUD’s employees are still working at home.

The Jefferson PUD is one of 29 state, local and tribal government agencies to receive Commerce money for solar panels.

A total of $3.5 million in grants have been awarded for public buildings from Birch Bay to Oak Harbor to the tiny Okanogan County town of Pateros; the Samish, Nooksack and Sauk-Suiattle tribes also received funding to add solar arrays to their public buildings.

They include schools, hospitals, community centers and wastewater treatment plants, with rural and tribal locations given priority, Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown said in a press release.

“Supporting solar projects in public buildings is one of the many ways Washington state is leading by example as we work toward meeting our goal of 100 percent clean electricity by 2050,” she added.

The state is also funneling money to counties for broadband development: the Washington State Broadband Office has awarded a total of $145 million to expand high-speed internet service to rural areas. In Jefferson County, those include Cape George, Anderson Lake Road, Discovery Bay and Marrowstone Island.

O’Donnell added that the PUD will apply next month for another $13 million in state grant funds for broadband in the southeast part of the county. Then there are applications for federal grants from the recently passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

“There is so much funding for broadband,” O’Donnell said, adding the PUD is mounting a “full-court press” to go after it.

He emphasized that the state-funded solar array at the operations center does not replace the PUD’s community solar project. That effort is on hold for now, but if and when it’s restarted, it will give PUD customers an opportunity to buy shares in a solar installation on PUD property.

With solar power and broadband development and grant applications, “we’ve got a lot on our plate,” O’Donnell said.

“We’re blessed to have these opportunities.”

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

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