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In farm fields from the Willamette Valley to the Kittitas Valley and east to Idaho, energy developers want to plant a new crop: commercial solar arrays. But a surge in utility-scale solar farm applications is generating pushback.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

The success of solar power could mean it becomes less attractive for home users in the future. Utilities are reaching the threshold where, under state law, they can be less generous to solar customers.

Ted S. Warren, file / AP Photo

Washingtonians are parsing the state budget passed last week by a divided legislature. It adds $1.8 billion for basic education over the next two years.  A big chunk of that comes from the closure of a so-called “extractive fuel” loophole, which is one of several new policies that many environmentally progressive groups like.   

Some of Nevada's largest solar installation companies plan to resume doing business in the state. For the past year-and-a-half Tesla (formerly SolarCity) and Sunrun stopped seeking new customers in this sunny part of the country because the state's Public Utilities Commission chose to phase out incentives for homeowners who install rooftop solar panels.

Consumers who thought they were doing the right thing by buying rooftop solar systems made by a Pacific Northwest company called Silicon Energy are in a pickle. Many of those solar panels have now been labeled defective and a fire risk.

“Mountlake Terrace TC sign and garage” by SounderBruce is licensed under CC BY 2.0 bit.ly/2pWC31Q

Weather in the Puget Sound might be dreary, but that hasn’t dampened the interest in solar energy. Cash incentives have only fueled the attraction. But one very generous program is being phased out, and others are set to follow suit. 

 

A startup company from North Idaho captivated donors and YouTube viewers worldwide a few years ago with its idea for turning roads and parking lots into solar farms. Now that far-out idea is available for public inspection for the first time.

The Solar Impulse 2 landed in the Phoenix area Monday night, welcomed by spectators at Goodyear Airport as the plane's pilots continue their quest to be the world's first solar powered airplane to fly around the Earth.

The 745-mile trip took nearly 16 hours — less time than expected, largely due to powerful tailwinds. The plane reached a maximum altitude of 22,000 feet.

From member station KJZZ in Phoenix, Andrew Bernier tells our Newscast unit:

The experimental plane called Solar Impulse 2 has taken off in Hawaii after a nine-month delay for repairs.

The team on the ground and at mission control let out exuberant cheers as the cutting-edge aircraft rose up into the early morning skies.

They're aiming to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

People who are interested in solar energy but don't own the perfect roof on which to install solar panels may have the option to buy into a bigger, centrally-located project. These are called shared solar or community solar. There's a boomlet of such projects in Washington state right now, while there are hardly any in sunnier Oregon and Idaho.

But Washington's generous solar incentives are coming under scrutiny.

Renewable energy like solar and wind is booming across the country as the costs of production have come down. But the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't blow when we need it to.

This challenge has sparked a technology race to store energy — one that goes beyond your typical battery.

Heat Storage: Molten Salt And A Giant Solar Farm

Batteries are often used to store solar power, but it can be a costly endeavor.

Oregon Department of Transportation

For many people, solar power is out of reach, because it is too expensive or because they don’t have a good place to put panels.  But there is a new option for residents in Tacoma.

Tacoma Power is launching a community venture for customers who want to invest in solar energy without buying their own equipment.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU

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.

AP Images

If sunshine is something you crave on weekends, best to get out and enjoy it on Friday if you can.

The forecast gets cloudy on Saturday, with showers increasingly likely on Sunday.  In fact, KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass is blogging this week about how this August is off to a much cooler and wetter start than is typical.

Riex / Flickr via Compfight

A delegation from Germany recently paid Washington’s clean tech lobby a visit. At a meeting in Seattle, the delegation, whose country's emphasis on renewable energy has made it a global leader in the sector, presented some of the lessons local companies are learning from the German example.

Courtesy Pacific Science Center

It looks a bit like something you might find in a book by Dr. Seuss: five huge sculpted sunflowers with striped green and orange stems.

The new installation outside Seattle’s Pacific Science Center is meant to draw in and educate the public about solar power. 

When you think of the clean energy economy, military barracks and mortar launchers probably aren’t the first things that come to mind.

But local clean energy boosters say the use of solar panels and biodiesel by the Department of Defense could be the key to getting more of these technologies off the ground.

Two years ago, the DOD created a new office, with a goal of reducing energy use by the U.S. military.

By Stephanie Bower / Courtesy Seattle City Light

As interest in solar power gains momentum, Seattle City Light is marketing a new program to make it more widely available. 

Community Solar gives people who can’t install solar panels on their own homes the chance to reap the rewards of a cash investment in solar power.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

From carousels to picnic shelters and libraries, solar power is becoming more commonplace in Seattle.

City Light says it has seen big growth in customer demand for alternative energy over the past decade – and small solar is one of the biggest draws.