2018 was a big year for clean energy in Whatcom County and Bellingham, despite the federal government allying itself firmly with fossil fuel interests. The City of Bellingham became the second city in Washington to commit to using 100% clean energy by 2035, and formed a committee of community members to advise them on reaching that goal. Bellingham also turned out some of the strongest support in the state for I-1631, with 68% of residents voting Yes for the clean air and clean energy ballot initiative in November.
While RE Sources pushed for those measures to help our city, county, and state transition away from fossil fuels, we also partnered with two local companies — Ecotech Solar and Itek Energy — on our Washington Goes Solar! program, which successfully outfitted 40 homes and businesses with solar arrays. Ecotech and Itek then donated a panel to The RE Store for every home or business that went solar as a result of learning the benefits at our workshops.
Our goal was to break down barriers for people who hadn’t realized solar was a good fit for them — helping them understand the complicated incentive programs, encouraging them to have their home or business assessed for solar’s feasibility, and answer any burning questions. We hosted 10 workshops and got over 200 community members up to speed on how to go solar, how easy and affordable it can be with low-interest financing, and how they can possibly generate even more power off their roof than they consume annually — even in rainy western Washington.
This solar program model proved to be mutually beneficial to local businesses, Whatcom residents, and RE Sources. It provided a free, easy way for community members to better understand how a home solar array can pay for itself in just a few years. It drummed up business for company headquartered just down the road from RE Sources. And it earned a nonprofit its very own solar array, freeing up funds to put back into the community (like The RE Store’s Community Jobs Training Program) that would otherwise go to an electricity bill. Ecotech installed half of the 40 panels The RE Store earned through the program on the warehouse roof this summer, and the rest are coming early 2019.
No matter what barriers clean energy faces nationally, our community has shown time and time again that it is built of role models and forward-thinkers who know that a clean energy future is not only necessary — it’s within our reach, if we choose to journey there, one solar panel at a time.