King County deepens its green energy commitment as grants bring more solar power projects to DNRP properties

Oct. 19, 2022

King County’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions includes investments in clean, renewable solar energy – and new grants from the Washington State Department of Commerce will fuel a sustained expansion of the county’s solar power generation capacity.

Totaling nearly $135,000, the recently announced grant funding will result in 200 kilowatts of total solar power generation capacity at the Solid Waste Division’s Shoreline and Bow Lake recycling and transfer stations.

This announcement follows action earlier this year by the Solid Waste Division to install a new solar panel array at the Vashon Recycling and Transfer station that will generate about 172,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year – enough to meet the annual needs of the transfer station, or about two dozen single-family homes.

When combined with operational changes, the Vashon Recycling and Transfer Station’s new solar array is expected to make the facility’s operations carbon neutral.

These clean-energy installations are replacing dirty fossil fuels and eliminating the need for hundreds of metric tons of CO2 emissions annually as the Solid Waste Division carries out its critical work of providing safe and convenient recycling and solid waste disposal facilities for growing communities.

The Parks Division has also been a major contributor to DNRP’s green energy advances. Parks has solar power arrays in place at several locations, including the King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Steve Cox Community Center in White Center, a maintenance facility at Marymoor Park near Redmond, and Cottage Lake Park near Woodinville.

DNRP’s solar energy investments are sized right for each project site – from as small as the public restroom building at Cottage Lake, to the sprawling rooftop array at the aquatic center in Federal Way.

The solar array on the roof of Parks’ Weyerhaeuser-King County Aquatic Center is one of the county’s largest solar investments.

David Broustis, DNRP Energy Program Manager, says the primary focus goal of DNRP’s solar installations is to first drive-down energy use at the specific facilities, then work to pursue on-site solar installations when the installations are cost effective for their entire lifecycle of 25 years.

“King County and much of western Washington are proving to be an excellent location for solar power, despite our reputation for cloudy weather and rain,” Broustis said. “Our northern latitude means long hours of sunlight from late springtime into early fall. In fact, we get more sunlight on average than Germany does, which produces the most solar energy in Europe.”

Since 2008, DNRP has installed solar power arrays generating a total of more than 800,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 500 metric tons.

Solar panels at Steve Cox Memorial Park in White Center produce more than 70,000 kilowatt hours of energy annually.

On-site solar installations also cut system-wide electrical use – achieved by reducing energy loss from the heat and inefficiencies between a typical electrical generation site and the electricity consumer.

These investments are a key part of the blueprint for climate action that includes speeding work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment and other sources, improving carbon sequestration through forest stewardship actions, responding to racial justice and equity, and more.

A portion of the solar panel installation at the Bow Lake Recycling and Transfer Station.

A recently published study revealed how challenging greenhouse gas reductions across the landscape can be.

The Puget Sound Regional Emissions Analysis found that while greenhouse gas emissions decreased 7% on a per-person basis between 2007 and 2019, overall emissions during that same period increased 11% – with a 20% population increase plus a 15% increase in air travel over that timeframe contributing to the upward trend.

This new study reflects a growing need for additional action by local governments, manufacturers, businesses, and residents to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a faster pace, and to speed the transition to a sustainable economy that prevents the most significant effects of climate change.

Looking ahead, Broustis says the new federal Inflation Reduction Act promises to accelerate clean-energy investments by King County and cities throughout the region.

“With new federal clean energy credits of 30% or greater now available to the public sector for these new and future solar investments, the cost effectiveness of solar energy installations will be significantly improved and within reach of more local governments, speeding up the transition to a clean energy economy,” he said.

The King County Strategic Climate Action Plan – the County’s blueprint for climate action includes speeding work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment and other sources, improving carbon sequestration through forest stewardship actions, responding to racial justice and equity, and more.

Enumclaw Recycling and Transfer Station’s solar array reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 82 metric tons annually.

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