Let the sunshine in!
On a misty, cool Saturday morning, vendors at the Olympia Farmers Market begin their weekly routine of arranging produce, preparing their displays and drinking their coffee before the market opens.
Solar on sale!
Among them, an unfamiliar sight. The only stall at the market that isn’t vending crafts or produce instead hosts a large solar panel propped up on a display stand. For decades, local farmers and craftspeople have been selling their wares at this community center, and now, for the first time in the Market’s 46-year history, something entirely different is on sale: solar energy.
People from Olympia Community Solar are there to share information about a brand-new community project called Sunflower. The Sunflower Project will include 200 Washington-made solar panels right above the entrance of the Olympia Farmers Market. Local solar installer South Sound Solar has been contracted to design and install the system which will generate enough electricity to offset 100% of the market’s needs.
Spreading the benefits
Community solar happens when a group of community members join together to create a solar project and share its benefits. The Sunflower Project is already at 35% enrollment, which leaves only 260 solar units remaining. Units have been selling fast and construction of the project is scheduled to begin this fall.
Any member of the public can own a unit of Sunflower. Each unit represents half of a solar panel. The value of the electricity produced by each unit will be distributed across unit owners in the form of an annual payment that can be donated to a nonprofit organization.
Sunflower’s unique model supports broader social equity in this fashion—by allowing donations of solar units to local non-profit organizations. Donations are tax deductible, and the non-profit of your choice will receive the annual payment for the solar unit’s production. Some of the organizations that have signed on to receive unit donations include GRuB, the Thurston County Food Bank, Salmon Defense, the Dispute Resolution Center, Homes First, and several more.
A group effort with many outcomes
The Sunflower project will bring cost savings to the Market, reduce pollution, create educational opportunities and help support local business! Participant’s and donors’ names will be featured on a plaque commemorating supporters of the project.
Honoring Steve Wilcox, a market founder and solar enthusiast
The Market was the location of Thurston County’s first community solar project thanks to the leadership of Steve Wilcox. Steve was a founding member of the Friends of Olympia Farmers Market — he started Sea Blossom Seafood and was a vendor at the Market for many years. Steve was the driving force behind the creation and management of the original solar installation at the market. It was removed in fall of 2020 and is considered an over-all success.
Steve passed away in 2017 at the age of 72. The Sunflower Project is dedicated to Steve’s memory. Donations in his honor may be made to the Friends of Olympia Farmers Market.
You can support the project by participating or donating online at olysol.org/sunflower or by mailing a check to Olympia Community Solar at 112 4th Ave E, STE 208, Olympia WA 98501.