Solar Energy Generation Grows Dramatically in Oregon

Oregon is getting more energy from the sun than it ever has before. Since 2003, Oregon’s solar generation has grown by one MW, serving more than 250 homes, businesses and public organizations.

This progress has been made possible by the solar electric program from Energy Trust of Oregon, Inc., and energy tax credits managed by the Oregon Department of Energy. Energy Trust has provided more than $3 million in direct incentives to homeowners and businesses installing solar energy systems since 2002. It has $1 million more to offer through this year and expects to invest another $2 million in 2006. “Oregon has installed more solar electric systems in the last two and a half years than it did in the last 20 years combined,” said Kacia Brockman, solar program manager, Energy Trust. “Homeowners and businesses around the state are demonstrating every day that solar can be a significant part of our goal to generate 10 percent of Oregon’s energy with clean, renewable resources like solar.” “Energy Trust is creating lasting value in Oregon’s solar industry by bringing a high level of quality assurance to the marketplace,” said Christopher Dymond, Senior Energy Analyst, Oregon Department of Energy. “What I like the most about the Energy Trust’s solar program is that it is not just about rebates, it’s also about building trade skills which is a good complement to Oregon’s energy tax credit program.” Energy Trust offers incentives of up to $10,000 to homeowners and up to $35,000 for businesses investing in solar photovoltaic systems through network qualified installers. Larger systems may be considered for an incentive through Energy Trust’s Open Solicitation program. Energy Trust incentives are in addition to available state and federal tax credits. Solar photovoltaic systems are highly reliable and require virtually no maintenance. Systems can range from an array of solar panels to roof-integrated photovoltaic cells. Solar panels are warranted to perform for at least 20 years and can operate for even longer with minimal upkeep. The majority of installed systems were at residences, each generating enough to meet at least 25 percent of the annual electrical needs of an average Oregon home. Commercial systems installed range up to 172 kilowatts, at Pepsi-Cola of Klamath Falls – the largest solar installation in the Northwest. A combination of tax credits, financial incentives, and attractive loan terms – and the prospect of eliminating all of their electric bills -attracted Pepsi-Cola of Klamath Falls to solar energy. “The tax benefits for installing a solar electric system are substantial and the prospect of making all the electricity we need is appealing,” said John Bocchi. “I don’t know why more businesses aren’t taking advantage of this. It makes financial sense and it’s the right thing to do.” The Bocchi family, which owns the company, received $210,000 in financial incentives from Energy Trust, $444,412 in Business Energy Tax Credits from the Oregon Department of Energy, an accelerated state and federal tax depreciation schedule and a financing package from the Oregon Energy Loan Program. Bocchi estimates that Pepsi will export about 50,000 kilowatt hours of electricity to the Pacific Power grid per year after satisfying its own internal loads. Eric Denzler of Bend installed a smaller, three-kilowatt system in November 2003. “Three kilowatts makes a huge impact on our utility bill,” said Denzler. “We’ve even had some bills with a negative number.” Since the system was installed on his home, Denzler has seen his solar photovoltaic system reduce his bill 25 percent during the winter. In the summer, the system generates enough power to virtually eliminate his electric bill altogether. Denzler received the maximum residential solar incentive from Energy Trust and an Oregon state energy tax credit of $1,500. All solar installations that receive Energy Trust incentives are connected to the local electricity grid. Any power generated by the system, but not consumed at the site, flows out to the grid and is credited to the system owner’s electric bill.
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