The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

In Oregon, Last Stand for Commercial Solar?

Oregon is in the midst of a drastic shift in its solar strategy, only you wouldn't notice it based on recent news. The state in late August launched efforts on two big, highly visible projects -- one just off a major highway and the other across parts of its university system.

But those projects were widely funded by money locked in long ago from the all-but-extinct Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC), which was essentially defunded during the state’s last biennium budget. Now, the $300 million pool of tax credit funding is down to $3 million — yes, that would be 1 percent the size — and large-scale utility projects won’t likely see the $250,000 cap available to them as significant enough to forge ahead.

It’s a scenario that’s becoming increasingly common across the United States as developers face uncertain tax and policy support from state and federal governments. Everyone, it seems, is making big cuts, but it’s often difficult to tell from which direction those cuts will come.

The two projects launched in Oregon got in under the wire, but they may also serve another purpose. Their visibility could be seen as a daily reminder of the communal and economic power of large-scale solar. That, in turn, may help build public support once the next two-year budget begins to take shape.

“We’re suffering from a downward economy that has pitted us against public service dollars,” said Glenn Montgomery, executive director of the Oregon chapter of SEIA. “That model has fallen out of favor at this point in time. These projects help elevate the benefits from an economic standpoint, from an environmental standpoint, from an energy independence standpoint. It shows we have the public sector engaged. Even if we don’t have the financing, at least we have some leadership and some folks who are promoting it from agency to agency.”

The Major Projects

Drivers along Oregon’s Interstate 5 in Wilsonville, south of Portland, will soon see a 1.75-megawatt installation at Baldock Safety Rest Area in what is being billed as the nation’s largest solar highway.

The $10 million project is a collaboration between Portland General Electric and the Oregon Department of Transportation, and is being financed by Bank of America. The solar power produced will be equal to about 9 percent of the annual power consumption purchased by the DOT from PGE. On top of that, it will include an interpretive display where the public can view the solar array and learn about solar power.

Meanwhile, Oregon is also home to a large-scale solar project at several college campuses. At one of the campusus — The Oregon Institute of Technology at Klamath Falls — 100 percent of the power will be produced via solar and geothermal sources and will be fed directly into the school. Large-scale arrays are also being planned for Oregon State University and Eastern Oregon University. The Oregon University System projects will have a combined capacity of 4.9 MW.

What’s Ahead?

Both of these projects relied heavily on the 50 percent credit from BETC, and without that it’s likely neither project would have gotten off the ground. But the commercial industry has been slowly downshifting as it prepared for the BETC to lose support in the down economy.

“The commercial side of solar has been dealing with the fact that tax credits are going away,” said Montgomery, who added that incentives have also been scaled back for other renewables like small hydro, biomass and community wind. “We’re all in the same camp. There’s little money available to any of those technologies from a commercial scale standpoint, and we’ll just have to muscle our way through and find innovative ways to keep commercial alive.”

While commercial is likely to struggle, new opportunities may open up in the residential market, which hasn’t seen its tax credit dramatically reduced in the last budget.

“We have a pretty strong residential installations group in Oregon,” said Claire Carlson, executive director of Solar Oregon, a nonprofit organization. “I think we’ll see a shift more toward residential.”

RELATED ARTICLES

Is Japan the Next Boom Market for the Geothermal Energy Industry?

Meg Cichon, Associate Editor As Japan continues to bounce back from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, it has focused on renewable energy to lessen its reliance on nuclear and carbon-heavy fossil fuels. In just two years, Japan installed more than...
Slow down sign

Reality Check: Maybe Energy Storage Isn't Ready for Prime Time

Meg Cichon, Associate Editor Highlighting the growth of the energy storage market at the at the 2015 Energy Storage Association Conference in Dallas, Texas, Oncor’s  VP of Transmission Operations Wes Speed compared the industry to the Texas rain: ...
Renewable energy investment

Smart Investments: Ditch Your CD for Renewable Energy Yieldco Dividends

Susan Kraemer, Correspondent Renewable energy yieldcos have gain traction in the past few years, and are certainly making it easier to develop projects. But many don’t realize that yieldcos also offer solid financial benefits for the average person who...
Risk and reward

Managing the Risks of Renewable Energy Projects in Developing Countries

Jeffrey Karp, Jim Wrathall and Morgan Gerard, Sullivan & Worcester Driven by rapid expansion in developing countries, renewables are becoming a significant source of the world’s power.  According to the United Nations Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) 9th “Global Trends in Renewable En...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 3
1505REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

RECAM WEEK

RECAM WEEK will bring together the incredibly successful SPG Central Am...

CIREC WEEK

Chile is still considered to be one of the world’s hottest m...

Greenbuild 2015

COMPANY BLOGS

What Is a Solar PPA And How Does It Work?

When talking about solar financing, the solar power purchase agreement (...

Metro Gold Line Operations Campus to meet LEED Gold Standard with LSX

Newly built by Kiewit, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Tra...

Lumos and Porsche combine forces at Dwell on Design

Come see us at Dwell on Design at the Los Angeles Convent...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS