Community-based campaigns help residents buy or lease discounted solar energy systems
March 9, 2012
The Oregonian: Under overcast skies, Patti Jarrett learned she had a nearly ideal roof for the 3.29-kilowatt solar energy system she planned to lease. South facing. Good tilt. Little shade. An hour later, she wrote Sunlight Solar a check to install panels she contends will provide significant energy savings over the next 20 years.
Jarrett, 72, sits on the Growing Solar Clackamas County steering committee and is determined to persuade as many of her neighbors as possible to sign up for solar by April 15. “Energy conservation is really critical,” she said. “We have declining resources and this is such a wonderful resource.”
And it’s a good time to buy. Imported Chinese panels and cells have driven down prices. And while that’s also led to a drop in Energy Trust of Oregon cash incentives for solar, those incentives and state and federal tax credits still help lower the cost considerably. Community-based campaigns like the one in Clackamas make it even less expensive.
These campaigns, where neighbors buy or lease discounted solar energy systems in bulk as part of a limited-time offer, are lighting up the state from Portland to Pendleton. Beaverton just put solar on more than 250 homes. West Linn and Lake Oswego will soon launch a joint campaign. Gresham is gearing up for one, as is Eugene. Northeast Portland is in the midst of its second.
Oregon’s first community-initiated “solarize” model started in Portland in 2009 with the Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Coalition and Energy Trust of Oregon. Later, Portland took the program on, winning a two-year, $400,000 U.S. Department of Energy grant that expires in June. Additional campaigns in the city’s Southeast, Southwest, Northwest, Northeast and North sections helped Portland install a total of 1.5 megawatts of solar — enough to power 125 homes.
Communities from across the state and nation (including Boston, New York, Minneapolis, Seattle and San Jose) called Portland to learn about replicating the campaigns, prompting the city to create The Solarize Guidebook, a free online resource. Portland also decided to share its federal money, giving seed funding to Growing Solar Clackamas County and Solarize West Linn-Lake Oswego as well as some community organizations in Union County and in the Rogue and Willamette valleys. Read more