People often look askance at the thought of solar power in Seattle - is there cause?
Sure, we get our share of rain. But, our region's long summer days are ideal for solar power. This, combined with net metering programs, allows customers to acrue energy credits in the summer months they can apply to their bills in our cold, rainy winters.
As the graph illustrates, in most cases potential power production far outstrips actual consumption during our long sunny summers, meaning the electric meter spins backward and builds you energy credits. If the system is properly scaled in relation to your consumption, it is often possible to generate enough summer credits to pay winter bills.
Another advantage is that solar panels operate more efficiently in our region's cooler summers, which means more power is generated per photon than in hotter climes. Solar doesn't stop working on cloudy days, either. The more diffuse light is still collected and converted into electricity.
That Seattle isn't in America's sun-scorched southwest doesn't mean solar isn't a financially and environmentally sound investment in the Pacific Northwest. Indeed, our region recieves more sunlight than Germany - who leads the world in installed solar capacity.
Germany doesn’t get an enormous amount of sunlight, relatively speaking. Its annual solar resources are roughly comparable to those in southern Alaska. Almost every single region in the continental United States has greater averagesolar potential than Germany.
Yet despite those limitations, Germany had istalled 30 gigawatts of solar capacity by the end of 2012, providing between 3 percent and 10 percent of its electricity needs. The United States has roughly 6.4 gigawatts of installed solar capacity today.
That solar won't work in Seattle - or anywhere in the continental United States - is perception rather than fact.