A local low-income housing complex just received some help with making costs even more affordable.

Representatives of Puget Sound Energy and HopeSource held a ribbon cutting Friday to celebrate the completion of an 82-kilowatt solar array that was recently installed on the rooftops of the Westview Villas apartment complex in Cle Elum. The 273-panel array, installed by Ellensburg Solar will be capable of powering approximately nine average households a year, reducing overall energy usage by 39 percent.

“With this project we will eliminate crushing winter utility bills for our Low-income Households at our Cle Elum property,” HopeSource Director of Asset Management Craig Kelly said in a news release. “When installed, residents will no longer be responsible for their energy payments, effectively freeing them from winter electric bills as high as $400.”

The project was funded with a combination of grant money from Puget Sound Energy’s Green Power program and from the Washington State University Community Energy Efficiency Program. PSE Media Engagement Specialist Andrew Padula said program aims to help low-income housing authorities reduce their long-term energy bills.

“One of the things we wanted to do was work with local nonprofits in the area,” he said. “HopeSource being one that we’ve worked with in the past. They definitely had a need for installing a large solar array like this in the community.”

The Westview Villas project is not the first one that PSE has worked on in the Upper County. The Putnam Centennial Center in Cle Elum received a grant in early 2018 to install a solar array. Padula said besides being a nonprofit entity, the center also serves as an emergency shelter.

“We wanted to make sure that if there was an emergency here like I-90 was shut down or we had a wildfire come through, that they’d be able to produce power during an emergency,” he said. “If they had to open it up as an emergency shelter, they’d have that.”

The Putnam project was also funded under the Green Power program. In 2018, the program awarded approximately $465,000 in grant funding to assist projects that focus on the transition to renewable energy. The majority of the projects were focused on the West Side.

“We are continuing our commitment to the communities we serve by choosing to work with Community Action Agencies that have a track record of serving people in need,” PSE Director of Product Development and Growth Will Einstein said in a press release. “By funding these solar projects on multi-family housing, not only are we supporting their core mission, but also helping to reduce their energy costs, returning savings to their tenants, and reducing their carbon footprint.”

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