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Rhonda Rosenberg, Director of Communications
King County Housing Authority
Sunny stimulus: State's largest residential solar photovoltaic array installed in Greenbridge
Initiative reduces utility costs and creates jobs
The Greenbridge community in White Center keeps getting greener. The installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roofs of 24 public housing units, currently under construction at Sixth Place Apartments, is in full swing. The 50.1 kilowatt array, comprised of 213 panels on nine buildings, will be the largest residential solar array in the state.
The work is being funded with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds and solar tax credits. The project supports the King County Housing Authority’s commitment to creating a more sustainable next generation of affordable housing, while stimulating the local construction economy.
“The solar panels reflect the Authority’s continued progress towards a more cost-efficient and sustainable future for public housing,” said Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority. “The entire region benefits when we produce power from a clean, renewable source. Installation of solar panels provides well-paying green jobs. Additionally, solar power helps offset the cost of providing electricity and reduces the taxpayers’ bill on an ongoing basis.”
Panels are being installed by A & R Solar, overseen by Walsh Construction.
GGLO Architects, Glumac Engineers and Michael Nouwens Structural Consultants were involved in the design of the rooftop system.
Because of cost constraints, Sixth Place Apartments was initially designed only to be solar-ready. But pricing for the entire project was lower than expected due to the current economic climate, making installation of the system feasible. The price tag of the solar panel installations is $500,000. Of that amount, $375,000 came from Recovery Act Funds; the remaining $125,000 came from federal solar tax credits.
A national study by the Econsult Corporation has measured the economic impact of investing in public housing. It showed that every construction dollar spent generates $2.12 in economic activity through wages, purchases of goods and services, and consumer spending by workers. Four workers are being employed on the solar project.
“We’re delighted that the installation of the solar array can be completed concurrently with the construction of the Sixth Place Apartments,” said Jon Hall, senior associate at GGLO. “This is just one of the many strategies we employed in this sustainably designed project to increase energy efficiency.”
Other strategies include walls, roofs and windows insulated to standards significantly beyond code requirements and the use of ENERGY STAR lighting on the interior and exterior of the building. Solar powered attic fans will keep the units cooler during the summer months by venting hot air from the attic spaces. Light tubes will minimize the need to use electric lighting during daylight hours.
When the solar panels go online sometime this summer, they will generate 52,558 kilowatt hours per year. Excess power generation will go back into the electric grid.
“We’re thrilled to work on a project that raises community awareness by showcasing more sustainable home building practices,” said Dave Kozin, director of A & R Solar. “Additionally, this project spurred the expansion of our business, giving us the confidence and ability to hire additional workers. We plan to maintain the increased level of staffing and see continued growth as prices for solar energy systems continue to decline, making solar more affordable for everyone.”
The project has already received national recognition: In March it was awarded a 2011 Residential Energy Efficiency award from ACI (Affordable Comfort, Inc.).
KCHA has solar installations located on the roof of the Jim Wiley Community Center at Greenbridge, as well as at twelve other sites owned or managed by the housing authority.
Located just a few blocks from White Center’s commercial core, the Greenbridge development will provide 900 rental and for-sale homes for a mix of household incomes when completely built out. The site includes the White Center Heights Elementary School; an Educare Early Learning and Head Start Center, funded through a collaboration between Washington state and the Bill & Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet Foundations; a community center run by Neighborhood House and the Southwest Boys & Girls Club; a YWCA Adult Learning Center; a King County branch library; and an extensive park and trail system. The award-winning project has been certified as Three-Star Built Green™ by the Master Builders of King and Snohomish Counties and features a number of creative approaches to environmental sustainability, including biofiltration swales to clean surface water runoff and narrower road widths to help calm traffic and reduce impervious surface area.