The first solar panel owned by attendees from Oregon sits atop the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production building at Talent. The installation is only waiting for a changeover before it can start feeding the electricity grid and providing energy credits to homeowners.
âThis allows community members to pool their resources to build a project that everyone can participate in,â said Ray Sanchez-Pescador, president of SolarizeRogue, who continued the $ 300,000 project.
Previously, Oregonians participated in solar with installations in their own homes, investing in solar projects, or subscribing to solar power provided by energy companies. The project allows community members to own their own power generation equipment if solar panels cannot be installed on their rooftops.
The facility can provide 141 kilowatts of electricity to 16 participants, including owners, five tenants and three low-income Rogue Valley families. The owners are located in Medford, Talent, Eagle Point, Gold Hill, Rogue River and Greensprings. An owner whose house is located in the mountains with high energy needs in winter bought 88 panels.
Homeowners may not be able to do solar installations for several reasons, including trees that block sunlight and roof spaces that are not properly aligned to allow solar production. Tenants do not have the roof over their head and therefore cannot install solar panels.
In 2015, the legislature passed laws authorizing the creation of solar condominium facilities, but the rules and guidelines for them were not created by the Public Utilities Commission until the end of 2019.
When SolarizeRogue approached Pacific Power about the project in early 2020, the utility said there were two hurdles. It lacked the billing software needed to allocate individual credits for solar generation and apply them to customer bills, and laws prohibited the sale of such electricity once it crossed a property line. The utility developed the software and the legal issues were resolved.
SolarizeRogue initially hoped to create a network capable of generating 60 kilowatts, but would have been satisfied with the minimum configuration of 25 kilowatts. Meetings held on Zoom attracted up to 70 interested owners.
âIn about four weeks, we ran out of roof space. We had to stop recording, âsaid Sanchez-Pescador. The project covers approximately 10,000 square feet and has 362 panels.
SolarizeRogue oversaw most of the installation with help from the Oregon Clean Power Co-op. Ashland’s True South Solar installed the grid. The OCPC has been hired to become a project manager in the future.
âThe strength of this approach is that people can basically install solar power somewhere else rather than on the roof of their house,â said Dan Orzech, OCPC CEO. “(It) … resonated with people because there is an emotional connection to looking at something that you actually own.”
OSF has its own rooftop solar project and rents the space to the community program. Additional space is available, but the festival is keeping it for future solar installations to meet its own needs.
Most homeowners expect to get 80-90% of their electrical energy from solar production. The return on investment will come after 11 years, and the panels have an expected life of 25 years.
An average homeowner would need to install enough panels to generate about five kilowatts at a cost of $ 15,000 to $ 20,000 to meet a large portion of the electrical needs, Sanchez-Pescador said. Because of the larger scale of the project, spending by many investors in the SolarizeRogue project is about half that amount, Sanchez-Pescador said.
State law provides that 10% of the electricity produced will be made available to low and moderate income households for energy assistance. The most modest households, selected by Rogue Climate, will benefit from a 20% reduction on their electricity bill.
Sanchez-Pescador is also a project investor. He had solar panels installed on his Rapp Road home in 2017 to help provide power, but an electric radiant floor is consuming large amounts and he wanted to get even more solar power out of it. The installation he completed in 2017 is valued at 8.6 kilowatts.
A federal income tax credit of 26% of the amount spent on solar installation is available for taxable individuals.
The OCPC announced plans for three solar installations at Talent in the fall of 2019. These are located in the festival production building, at the Talent City Civic Center and at the Headquarters No.5 in the District of fire in Jackson County, just north of the city limits.
The festival facility was due to start generating power last week, Orzech said. Work should start soon on the city’s solar installations and the fire station. The pandemic, and then the Almeda fire, delayed what would normally have been faster times. All three projects were financed using a more traditional method with investors buying bonds.
Contact Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at [email protected]