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January 2014  


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Solar Oregon strives to help all Oregonians achieve a clean energy future by providing public education and community outreach on solar energy as a part of an overall energy conservation and reduction goal.


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Bob and Cathy Off-Grid Solar Home    



Bob and Cathy have figured out how to meet nearly all of their energy needs with solar.  They have a 3.2 kw solar electric system and all the modernconveniences without the electric, sewer, and water bills.


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Community-shared Solar and Cooperative Ownership
Oregon Ranks 13th in the Nation for Solar Power
New Incentives Rates Announced
SB 1520 to Facilitate Cooperative Ownership of Solar
From the Executive Director
New Feedback on Oregon's Solar Code
Meet Alexis Gabriel, Communications and Media Intern
Solar Oregon Welcomes New Board Members
Energy Trust's Solar Team Welcomes a New Member
Upcoming Solar Events in Oregon
Community-shared Solar and Cooperative Ownership 


If you're paying attention to the solar distributed generation market in Oregon, chances are that you've started to hear about community solar or community-shared solar. The idea is gaining popularity among energy policy makers and solar advocates because it seems to offer a solution to a number of market barriers and inequities. Community-shared solar delivers environmental, economic and social equity benefits, making it a true triple-bottom line opportunity. 


A variety of business models and ownership structures to achieve community-shared solar facilities have been implemented in different US jurisdictions. In Oregon and elsewhere, community-shared solar faces its own barriers, many of them related to state and federal policies and regulations.


This article focuses on one specific ownership model for community solar: the cooperative model.



Oregon Ranks 13th in the Nation for Solar Power
Advocates and local leaders call on state to move forward on clean energy

A new report was released this month highlighting the solar energy boom across the country. Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America's Top 12 Solar States, by  Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center, outlines the twelve states that have made a considerable contribution to the nation's rise in solar power.

Oregon missed the cut and ranks 13th in the nation for per capita solar installations. The report was released at the June Key Delta Community Center, under the landmark sustainable building and solar roof, and alongside local solar company, Synchro Solar.

"The sky's the limit on solar energy," said Sarah Higginbotham, the state director of Environment Oregon. "The progress of other states should give us the confidence that we can do much more. Our message today is clear: If we want our state to be a leader in pollution-free solar energy, we need to set big goals and get good policies on the books."

In 2012, solar capacity in Oregon grew by 39% bringing it to a total of 69 Megawatts. But Oregon still trails behind leading solar states such as Arizona and New Jersey that have more than 14 times as many solar installations per capita than Oregon.

New Incentives Rates Announced for Residential Solar Electric Systems


New tax credit and incentive rates for residential solar electric systems went into effect at the beginning of 2014.  The Oregon Department of Energy filed new rules for the residential energy tax credit, changing the tax credit for PV to $1.90 per watt.  The maximum tax credit remains at $6,000.

Energy Trust of Oregon separated incentives for residential solar electric systems into two new categories based on project ownership: customer-owned residential and third party-owned residential.  PGE customers will now benefit from a higher $1/watt incentive with a maximum incentive of $10,000.  Energy Trust incentives for Pacific Power customers remain at $.75/watt with a higher $7,500 maximum.
Energy Trust incentive changes were made in response to market trends. The incentive for customer-owned residential solar electric systems served by Portland General Electric was increased to address their higher above-market costs. The customer-owned project maximums were increased in both utilities to encourage the installation of larger systems, which have a lower cost per watt than smaller systems for this ownership type.

So what do these changes mean for Oregon homeowners?  New rate structures encourage larger system sizes that cover a greater portion of residential energy use.  Residential Energy Tax credits, federal tax credits and Energy Trust incentives taken in combination can cover up to 80% of total solar electric system costs!  >>Click here see examples of typical residential solar electric system costs.  

For more information about Oregon's new rules for Residential Energy Tax Credits click here.


Senator Bruce Starr is sponsoring a bill in the 2014 short legislative session that would add Renewable Energy Cooperatives to the existing list of cooperatives that are exempted from securities registration in Oregon.  SB 1520, if passed, will make it easier and less costly for groups of Oregonians to pool their resources and develop solar installations and other renewable energy technologies such as wind turbines, farm biogas digesters, microhydro, and eventually, wave energy.  The bill will be read on Thursday, February 6th in the Senate Committee on Business and Transportation, of which Senator Starr is the vice-chair. 


Oregonians for Renewable Energy Progress (OREP) and Solar Oregon welcome your interest and support of the bill.  OREP is lining up written and oral testimony for February 6th. If you have experience in trying to develop a community-owned renewable energy project in Oregon and would like to speak to the value of this legislation, please contact OREP.  We look forward to seeing this pro-solar piece of legislation pass this session!
From the Executive Director 

This month we hosted a strategic planning retreat for our board members and staff. The retreat was held at the Corkscrew on Bybee Avenue in SE Portland and was facilitated by Jonathan Poisner Strategic Consulting. The primary reason we met was to reach consensus regarding the organization's goals for the next two years, the board's roles in achieving those goals, and allow newer and long-standing board members to get to know each

other better and establish relationships for future teamwork.


We welcomed our two newest board members, Cam Coleman and Gene Mills, and staffer Alexis Gabriel.


Led by Jonathan Poisner, who is an expert in organizational planning we reviewed our current Mission and Vision statements and discussed what goals we should set for the next several years. We discussed the key financial and other constraints that exist for Solar Oregon for in 2014-2015, as well as other major facts that form the landscape in which we operate. Jonathan coached us through a goal prioritization exercise and helped us align our programs with our priorities.  

Corkscrew Wine Bar in Portland, Oregon


What we found out ... is we've got a lot of work to do. Let's get started, my friends.


I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what a great venue we had for this gathering. Owner Tracee Danyluk shared her love of community and support for clean energy by donating her fabulous wine bar to us for this Saturday afternoon meeting. It was a unique and cozy environment complimented by a fine lunch served up by Tracee and Deb Omey (no, we didn't drink wine for lunch!), which we enjoyed in the midst of the work we had in front of us.

2013 was a record-breaking year for solar power in the United States. In fact, solar power was the second leading source of new electricity in the U.S. behind the more established energy source - natural gas. The biggest reason for the surge in solar installations is the rather dramatic drop in the price of panels. In fact, the average price of a solar panel has declined by 60 percent since the beginning of 2011. Despite this drop in the price of panels, solar energy remains a pricey proposition. The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Sunshot Initiative is providing funding for projects aimed at reducing "soft costs" to make solar photovoltaic (PV) systems more affordable and cost competitive with other sources of electricity.


According to an October 2013 study by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), soft costs now account for 64 percent of the price of installed residential PV systems. Soft costs include such items as customer financing, system design fees, installer overhead, and the costs and fees associated with installation, such as labor, grid interconnection, inspections, and permitting. Permitting is considered the low-hanging fruit for reducing soft costs.


In an effort to better understand the solar permitting process in Oregon and to improve the information available to installers, the Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO), with funding from U.S. Department of Energy, developed an electronic survey asking local building departments questions about:


* Submittal requirements
* Fees
* Timeframe
* Inspections
* Electronic permitting

Meet the Team 

ALEXIS GABRIEL, Communications and Media Intern


As our Communications and Media Intern, Alexis works to keep the Oregon community informed on solar energy and Solar Oregon's programs and events. She started with our organization as a volunteer last summer and assisted with outreach efforts for Solar Forward and last year's Solar Now! University.  


Prior to working at Solar Oregon, Alexis worked in communications, marketing and program development for domestic and international sustainability and fair-trade non-profits. Her work took her to places like Cape Town, South Africa and Shizuoka, Japan. Her experience and expertise includes market research, project planning and management, environmental policy, analytics, marketing, and communications. Alexis gets excited about helping companies and organizations meet their sustainability goals.

Alexis attended the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Fisher Graduate School of International Business, whereby she received a MBA and a Masters in International Environmental Policy, Sustainable Development and Marketing. She also holds a B.A. in communications/media studies from Xavier University of Louisiana.


Today, in addition to her work with Solar Oregon, she serves as the staff assistant for the City of Portland's Sunday Parkways program where she keeps Portlanders active, outdoors, and connected to their communities. When away from work, Alexis has a love for nature, music and conversations about solar and sustainability.

 Solar Oregon Welcomes New Board Members 
This month two new Board Members joined the Solar Oregon team, Gene Mills and Cameron Coleman.

Cam Coleman has been in an advisory role for Solar Oregon board and staff for several years and recently represented us on the City of Beaverton's new solar reservoir project. He is the Lead at InSpec Energy Solutions offering consulting and project management services to support renewable energy project development and integration.


Cam has worked on a wide variety of renewable energy projects and supported "clean tech" industry development. He has been involved in the design and integration of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, solar electric vehicle charging stations, solar thermal projects, small hydro power generation, and energy storage systems. He was the lead on the integration of a solar PV system at Safeco Field for the Seattle Mariners, and most recently, was the lead in developing a 3MW solar PV project designed to connect to the micro grid at the University of California Irvine which is due to be turned on in early 2014.


A NABCEP certified solar instructor, Cam's past experience also includes almost 20 years in the construction industry as director of operations, sales manager, project manager and trainer. In his free time, Cam enjoys riding his bike and spending time with his wife of 25 years and their three grown children.


Gene Mills joins our board after many years working with our professional members in his capacity as Solar and Clean Energy Program Manager at Platt Electrical Supply of Beaverton. His work includes developing solar training programs in support of 120 Platt branches in 8 western states, and coordinating corporate strategies called Clean + Efficient + Smart.


He joined the Solar Oregon board because he wants the satisfaction of servicing others and helping them and the solar industry grow by utilizing his many years of experience in business development and customer service. He is keen on the idea of building a sustainable and growing solar market in Oregon and sees our organization as a way to accomplish this.


Prior to his work with the solar market, Gene was the director of curriculum at Blue Volt of Portland where he developed training programs for distribution companies' online universities and national training programs. His duties included working with content developers and national training organizations to develop CEU courses for skilled professionals, and organizing training events for corporate users of the Learning Management System. Gene holds Training & Development Certificates from Portland State University. 
Energy Trust's Solar Team Welcomes a New Member 

Welcome, Project Manager, Jennifer Hall to the Energy Trust solar team! For the past four years, Jennifer was director of operations for local solar contractor, Synchro Solar, where she received hands-on experience designing, permitting and managing commercial and residential solar installations. Before joining Synchro, Jennifer received a Master's of Science in aerospace engineering and worked as an engineer performing handling qualities analysis on BlackHawk helicopters for Sikorsky Aircraft in Connecticut.


Jennifer originally became involved in the solar industry by volunteering for Engineers without Borders and working to install standalone solar on secondary schools in Tanzania. She remains an active volunteer with the organization, and plans to return to Tanzania this year.


Jennifer is Energy Trust's solar technical lead, responsible for contractor outreach and quality management processes. She will manage the team of five verifiers and will help with continuous improvement of application reviews and system verifications.

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