Commerce awards $35.4 million for solar power with battery back-up systems to bolster community resilience

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sept. 27, 2023

Commerce awards $35.4 million for solar power with battery back-up systems to bolster community resilience

Grants will support 52 planning and 39 installation projects that will provide back-up power for community buildings to serve emergency and other critical needs statewide

OLYMPIA, WA --- The Washington State Department of Commerce today announced $35.4 million in grants to local, state, and tribal governments and non-profits to plan and install solar and battery back-up power systems at community buildings. The projects will provide clean back-up power for critical community needs during power outages, including supporting emergency services, healthcare, and shelters.  Outside of power outages, the systems will produce clean electricity that will save energy costs for the facility operators, and the systems may also reduce strain on the grid when usage is high.

“Power outages impact everyone differently - some of our most vulnerable community members face significant risks when the power goes out,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong. “These investments in solar power with battery back-up systems will help people receive the services they need most – whether that’s heating or cooling, medical care, or keeping devices charged so they can communicate and stay informed.”

Funding for solar and battery storage projects is an important element of Washington state’s climate leadership, including commitment to a 100% clean electric grid free of carbon emissions by 2045. These investments increase community resilience and create new business opportunities and good jobs throughout the state.

“In addition to stewarding this state funding, Commerce is focused on maximizing every opportunity to capitalize on the historic amounts of federal clean energy funding currently available to states, including pursuing a state grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s $7-billion Solar for All initiative,” Fong said.

Some of the Solar Plus Storage grants announced today will support planning and development work, such as feasibility studies, to prepare organizations to complete solar and battery storage projects in the future.

According to Commerce Assistance Director Michael Furze, some under-resourced communities have difficulty completing the planning and pre-development needed to even apply for a grant. “We are pleased to be able to help communities get ready to complete solar and battery storage projects in the future.”

“There are unprecedented levels of funding from Washington state and the Federal Government to build clean energy projects and to build energy resilience. For the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, and many other communities that lack expertise and staff capacity around energy, access to funding for planning and pre-development work is critical to help communities participate in and benefit from a just transition to a clean energy economy,” said Robert Knapp, Environmental Planning Program Manager for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, one of the grant recipients.  “The ‘Jamestown Solar Planning and Pre-development Project’ funded by Washington Department of Commerce’s Solar Plus Storage for Resilient Communities will allow the Tribe to assess our current infrastructure, identify locations for future solar plus storage installations, engage the Tribal community, and begin pre-development. Each community’s energy journey will be unique, and it is an exciting time to be starting this journey at Jamestown.”

“We are so excited about our planning grant,” said Rebecca Small, senior policy analyst for City of Vancouver. “This is the city’s first year of working on our Climate Action Framework and a win like this is a win for our whole community, as it allows us to make early progress on one of the biggest priorities that we heard during our public engagement period – to create safe, resilient emergency centers for our most vulnerable residents during climate hazards and other emergencies.”

A second group of awards will fund installation of solar and battery back-up equipment at community buildings, ranging from schools and senior centers to fire stations and hospitals.

“Okanagan County is highly prone to wildfires, smoke and heat events, flooding, and other natural disasters that have had an increasing impact on our rural power grid with the effects of climate change,” said Kevan Coffey, medical director for Family Health Centers. “We currently have no backup power at our Omak Clinic, the largest clinic in our system.  The ability to maintain clinic operations during power outages will reduce barriers for our patient population, allowing patients to keep previously scheduled appointments, seek urgent healthcare and fill prescriptions.”

“Our pharmacy will also be able to keep a consistent temperature on our stock of medications that our patients rely on, including medications that require refrigeration like diabetic insulins,” added Barry Freel, Pharmacy Operations Manager for Family Health Centers. “This project will set an example for the future of resilient infrastructure in rural Washington.”

The Solar plus Storage for Resilient Communities program provides competitive funding for projects at community buildings, including schools, community centers, libraries, and other buildings owned by local, state, tribal governments and non-profits in Washington. All grant funds are contingent upon execution of final project contracts with Commerce. The selection process prioritized projects that will benefit populations most vulnerable to impacts from power outages and emergencies. These communities include highly-impacted, lower-income, rural, and remote communities.

See the full list of grant recipients.

For more information on funding opportunities for energy projects, visit the Commerce Energy webpage.


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Commerce Communications, (206) 256-6106 | Mobile/text: (360) 704-9489