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Electrician Pat Norwil (left) and project manager Ellen Lamiman will team with Partnership for a Sustainable Methow to make the project happen.

Sunpower III
Community solar at Twispworks

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Some of the Okanogan Public Utility District #1 customers now have a chance to invest in a Community Solar Project that will generate an estimated 44,000 kilowatt hours per year of solar energy at TwispWorks.

The new 34,580-watt solar system will be the third community solar project built in the Methow Valley under the Washington State Renewable Energy Cost Recovery Incentive Program. Similar projects were built at the Okanogan Electric Coop in 2010 and on property owned by the Town of Winthrop in 2011.

To participate in the program, a PUD customer must have participated in an event or program sponsored by the Project for a Sustainable Methow, or be related to someone who has done so.

The project will “provide an estimated 46% total return on investment to project owners over the next eight years,” according to solar consultant and project manager Ellen Lamiman. Eligible PUD customers may become owners in this solar project by investing from $500 to $15,000, in $500 increments.

“There is some risk since the energy production depends on amount of sunshine, reliability of the equipment, and the stability of the utility power distribution system,” said Lamiman. “However, the two previous community solar projects here are producing more energy than expected, and returning more than predicted to the owners.”

As with the Winthrop Community Solar Project--funded by Okanogan County Electric Coop members--the non-profit Partnership for a Sustainable Methow (PSM) will administer the project on behalf of the owners. PSM’s history of activities in the Methow includes producing the Harvest Dinner, the Local Source directory, Sustinere Magazine, and many educational events and classes as well as initial sponsorship of Methow Resource Recovery, Classroom in Bloom and the Red Shed Produce Program.

Owners in the project will also be offered the opportunity to donate all or part of their investment return to support cooperative projects between PSM and TwispWorks.

“This project has great benefits to all involved,” said Amy Stork, Executive Director of TwispWorks. “TwispWorks will benefit from the energy produced, saving an estimated $2,200 a year on electric bills. When the incentive program ends on June 30, 2020, ownership of the solar system will be conveyed to TwispWorks, and the solar modules are expected to continue to produce energy for another 30 to 50 years.”

The panels will be manufactured by Silicon Energy or Arlington, WA..

Community solar projects enable individuals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to invest in solar energy systems installed on local public property. Each year, through June 2020, the State program allows participating utility companies to pay a cost recovery incentive of $1.08 per kilowatt-hour produced from solar equipment manufactured in Washington State. The incentive is paid to community solar project owners according to their percent of ownership. No one can receive more than $5,000 a year.

The cost recovery incentive money comes from part of the retail excise tax the Public Utility District would normally pay to the State General Fund, but is allowed instead to spend locally to boost the economy and build renewable energy systems.

Lamiman, a local solar consultant, said the Methow is an ideal site for multiple community solar projects “because solar-electric systems installed here generate about 40% more power than the same size systems installed on the west side of the Cascades, and because the people of the Methow show a lot of interest in supporting the use of renewable energy.”

The TwispWorks project will be the largest of the three community projects with 180 solar modules installed on the roofs of two buildings. The total cost to the project owners is $255,000.

Part of the costs for the solar installation, including changes to TwispWorks buildings and landscaping to accommodate the project, are being paid for by a separate grant, which will also allow for monitoring of the energy produced, and provide funds for educational programs.

Lamiman, owner of Solar Energy Solutions, and solar installer Pat Norwil of Norwil Electric, will team up with PSM to implement the community solar project.

PUD customers can read a detailed document explaining the project and its risks and returns, and complete a one-page mail-in application to be placed on the list to receive an ownership offer. Applications will be processed in order by postage date. The application form and more information are available at or Questions can be sent to



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