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Solar Power Booming In Washington, But Report Shows More Could Be Done

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Bellamy Pailthorp
/
KPLU
Jeremy Smithson is the CEO of Puget Sound Solar

If you ever thought that Washington’s often cloudy skies stand in the way of solar power here, think again, says Jeremy Smithson.

The CEO of Puget Sound Solar stood in his warehouse on Rainier Ave. South, surrounded by stacks of solar panels.

“And these are not just inventory – these are all sold projects,” he said, gesturing toward the stacks.

His company has grown from a tiny startup to a small business with more than 30 employees over the past decade. He says they get multiple calls a day from potential customers. And he’s part of a statewide trend.

A new report from Environment Washington shows a 56% growth in per capita solar power capacity in the state last year. The group’s executive director Bruce Speight says despite that, we need to be doing more.

“Washington State still lags behind neighbors like Oregon – and less sunny locales like New Jersey. While Washington has several strong clean energy policies on the books, state leaders are poised to take support for clean energy up another notch.” 

For example, he says Washington’s sales tax exemption and a production incentive for solar power will expire in the next few years and needs to be extended. And they'd like to see the state's s  renewable energy standard create a minimum carve-out for solar. 

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“To boost solar energy development further, we at Environment Washington are urging our state leaders to commit to sourcing 10% of our energy from solar by 2025.”

He says that could help the state meet the targets outlined for it in the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan for reducing carbon pollution to address climate change and slow global warming. 

It could also create more jobs.

The report says solar power tripled in the last three years nationwide and is adding jobs much faster than the overall economy. Last year, 2,400 people in Washington were employed in the solar power industry. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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