Ecotech employees install a solar panel.

Shining Bright: Community Food Co-op Leads with Solar Power


by Melissa Elkins

Sustainability Manager at Community Food Co-op

At Community Food Co-op, we recognize that our responsibilities go beyond the products on our shelves. We strive to continuously improve the Co-op’s sustainability practices, from energy use to waste reduction. Utilizing solar power is one way we have recently contributed to building a more sustainable community.  

Community Food Co-op’s first large solar array went “live” on June 18, 2012. The Co-op partnered with Ecotech Solar and installed a 126-panel array on the roof of our LEED® certified Cordata location. This array is still going strong and is generating roughly 33,000 kWh of electricity per year. Upon installation, this array was the largest in Whatcom County! 

Three years later when we rebuilt our mixed-use building that houses our administrative offices, classroom and wholesale bakery at 405 E Holly St — across from our Downtown store — we made sure that solar would be part of its future.  

In November 2022, we started the conversation with Ecotech Solar to start planning a new array on top of our E Holly St building. Originally it was going to encompass a rather small footprint of our roof, but our goals became loftier! It took several months for the plans to get developed and approved by the City of Bellingham, and the project finally got started in early September 2023.  

While the timeline took longer than expected, the 154 panel, 74.71 kW system went live February 1, 2024. 

This project has been a labor of love for me, and I’m thrilled to already see some fantastic returns on the investment. In our first three months of electricity generation, the array has already generated roughly 88% of the electricity we have consumed in the building! And we expect that a couple of months each year the system will generate more electricity than will be consumed; when this happens, the excess will be sold back to the grid at market rate.  

A crane lifts a flat of many solar panels to the roof.

For local businesses that are considering solar, there were several incentives that helped inform our decision: 

  • Prices have decreased about 35% in the last several years 
  • Participating in net metering allows us to sell excess electricity back to the grid at market prices 
  • No sales tax 
  • 30% federal tax credit through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) 
  • 10% tax credit for commercial systems located in “energy communities,” also through the IRA 

One last incentive was our community partnership with Ecotech Solar. They held a series of educational workshops in our classroom for residents and business owners to learn about installing their own solar array. For every person who went forward with an array, Ecotech donated a panel to the Co-op’s array! 

You can check out our solar generation in real time on our website at  

Solar panels are shown from the side.