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Edit March 7: A prior version of this story had Bob Venera's name spelled incorrectly. 

While large-scale commercial solar projects have been generating controversy in Kittitas County recently, residential solar is a different story.

A Kittitas County moratorium on commercial solar facilities doesn’t apply to residential solar, and local companies are seeing lots of interest from people who want to install solar panels on their homes.

Bob Venera, owner of Central Wind and Solar, said that his company has about 100 customers in the immediate Ellensburg area who have had solar panels or wind turbines installed on their own property.

“The payback is so good now. Solar is so popular, people can basically zero out their electric bill,” he said. “You can get paid to make electricity.”

As of July 2017, for every extra kilowatt generated by a residential system with panels made in Washington state, the state offers a 21 cent incentive.

This doesn’t sound like much, but it can add up fast, Venera said, and the process to get solar is fairly easy as well.

“Basically, they go online, give us a call or an email, we go out, meet with them, look around and decide together the best most appropriate place,” Venera said. “We don’t want to oversell them, we just want to give them enough to neutralize their bill.”

An average system will pay for itself within four to six years, he said.

Ellensburg Solar, owned by Ryan Wales, is another local company providing solar panels to local residents. The company is the largest installer of residential solar panels in Washington state, Wales said.

When a customer expresses interest in solar, there is an amount of paperwork and permitting that needs to be completed, but both companies take care of that and do their best to streamline the process for their customers.

From start to finish, it can take several weeks, Wales said of his process, but it’s simple once it is begun.

“We generate a couple options for them and then explain the incentives and financing options,” he said.

Both companies have financing options for their customers, and if somebody is in the position to own a house, they should also be in a position to be able to afford solar, Wales said.

An average system will cost approximately $30,000 Wales said, but the cost out of pocket is significantly reduced once federal, state and local incentives are applied. The federal government is currently offering a 30 percent tax credit and Washington is offering a production based incentive check which, according to Wales, pays for half of the system.

“It’s a great deal,” he said. “Instead of sending your money to the power company every month, you produce (power) yourself.”

Ellensburg is in a sweet spot for solar energy, Wales said. The Kittitas Valley is only 20 percent behind Arizona in terms of the amount of power solar panels can generate from the sun. Not only is this area sunny, but the wind helps the panels generate more power by cooling them down, Wales said.

HOW IT ALL WORKS

Most residential systems are tied to the power grid, which means that any excess power generated goes back into the main system and the resident receives a credit that can go toward power bills.

Solar power is low maintenance, Wales said. Because the systems are tied to the main grid, this means that no storage batteries are needed and each solar panel has a warranty of 25 years and a lifespan of 30 plus years. The only other part is a DC/AC power converter that changes the raw DC power to AC power, but even this has a typical lifespan of 15 plus years.

“Now is and will be the best time to install solar for the foreseeable future,” he said.

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