Is solar power a realistic choice in the northwest?
Yes. While it may not always seem like it, solar energy is a great resource in the Northwest. Our long, sunny summer days more than make up for our short cloudy days in the winter. The reason solar works so well here is that it's sunny when our days are long in the summer.
No matter where you are in the world half of the year is day and half the year is night. At the equator the day and night are divided evenly throughout the year with 12 hour days and 12 hour nights year round. At our northern latitude we have 16 hour days in the summer and just 8 hour days in the winter. The majority of our annual daytime comes in the summer when our weather is great. While winter clouds that make us feel like solar shouldn't work here they come when our days are very short anyway so they don't cost us much in annual energy. Because of net metering we're able to store up that summer sun in the form of credits with the utility to use through the winter.
This image shows daytime hours throughout the year in Nairobi and Bellingham. Both locations have the same number of daytime hours in a year. The majority of Bellingham's come during the summer when its sunny.