Hilltop community awarded additional $50,000 for solar project

More solar power is coming to the Hilltop neighborhood.

Tacoma’s Shiloh Baptist Church is leading the charge to bring more renewable energy to its community. The church was awarded a $50,000 grant from Tacoma Power’s Evergreen Options program to build a solar project that will cover more than half of the church building’s electricity use. The church chose Sphere Solar Energy, the only minority owned solar firm in the region, to lead the project.

“For many of our members, investing in solar at their own homes is unrealistic,” said Pastor Gregory Christopher. “Installing solar in this way is a grassroots solution to the impacts of climate change, while investing in local facilities that are the backbone of this neighborhood.”

Money for the annual Evergreen Options grant comes from Tacoma Power customers who voluntarily elect to pay a little more on their bill each month to support the investment and development of local and regional renewable energy sources, including solar projects in Tacoma.

“Tacoma Power generates renewable, carbon-free hydropower,” said Clay Norris, Power Manager for Tacoma Power. “We have customers who care deeply about sustainability and energy conservation and are willing to spend as little as $3 per month to Evergreen Options to offset their overall carbon footprint and support local renewable energy development like community solar projects.”

Dollars from the elective Evergreen Options program are used to offer local non-profits grant money to build a custom renewable energy project that allows the organization to generate their own electricity.

Many organizations in the Hilltop community have invested in solar power projects in recent years. Last year, three eighth graders at Jason Lee Middle School had a dream that would cost nearly $300,000. With the help of a teacher who is passionate about climate change and energy conservation, they set out to learn how solar panel technology and the sun could create energy for their school. In science class, the former students conducted a feasibility study that, after receiving accolades at the governor’s STEM Education Innovation Alliance event, led the school district to seek, and ultimately, be awarded, Tacoma Power’s grant for $50,000 toward the cost of the project. With the help of additional grants and donations, the district plans to install a solar array on the school’s roof that will save the school over $10,000 per year in energy costs.

Tacoma Power customers who participate in the Evergreen Options program vote on which applications will be awarded the grant funding. Past grant winners include Pt. Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, Bates Technical College, Tacoma Housing Authority, and Franklin Pierce Schools, for a total of about $300,000 awarded for local renewable energy projects since the program launched in 2017.

“We love this program,” said Steve Bicker, the Director of Customer Energy Programs for Tacoma Power. “The Evergreen Options grant provides a platform for collaboration among customers, the community, non-profit service providers, and the utility that results in a cleaner and healthier environment for generations to come.”

To sign up for Evergreen Options or learn about solar projects created with the grants, visit MyTPU.org/EOShiloh.

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