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"Beaverton offers solar power at a savings"

Some competitors wish pilot program had been open to bidding process. Beaverton took one of its first visible steps in pursuing its sustainability goals last week, by launching a new program: Solar Beaverton.

 

The pilot program, a partnership between the city and SolarCity, a California-based company with offices in Portland, will see 50 Beaverton residential homes be converted to solar power with what the company says is a discounted price.

According to the program’s pricing structure – available at www.solarbeaverton.org – the initial out-of-pocket costs for Beaverton homeowner’s who participate in the program will be $11,750. Factoring in available tax credits, however, could bring the net cost down to $2,250.

“I think this is kind of a first on the Westside,” said the city’s sustainability program coordinator Cindy Tatham. “It’s the city stepping up and trying to lead sustainability efforts.”

Eligible residents interested in the program must apply by Aug. 31. If the pilot program goes well, city officials said, a citywide program encouraging residential solar use could be implemented next year.

Installing the 3,000 watt solar system – where panels are mounted on the roof, generating power that is used by the resident, with excess being fed back into the power grid – can’t be done on every house, so each applicant to the program has to go through an approval and consultation process with SolarCity.

Tatham said the pilot program got its start when she was researching solar power for her own home, and talking to numerous solar businesses. She said the city planned to pursue a residential solar program next year, but SolarCity came back and proposed a pilot program.

Tatham said she hopes the city will learn lessons from the pilot program to take forward into the future. She said that, so far, 65 people have contacted her about Solar Beaverton, and there’s been more than 100 applications. She’s quick to point out, though, that doesn’t mean all the spots are taken.

“We knew there was a lot of interest,” said Rob Lavigne, SolarCity’s regional operating director, of the reason his company approached the city. “We knew it was a great community from a solar standpoint. And the city already had a strong lean toward it with the sustainability program.”

Not everyone was completely happy with the announcement however. Numerous local solar-system providers made it clear that they were upset with the fact that Solar Beaverton was launched without a competitive bidding process.

Bruce Warner, who lives in Beaverton and works for GreenStump Solar in Portland, said that he thinks the city could have lowered the prices for the program if it had sought competitive bids.

“I’m not saying it should be us, but local people should be given a chance to work on the project,” Warner said.

Tatham said that a competitive bidding process was not pursued because no taxpayer money was being spent, and because this is only a pilot program. She said that if a citywide program were to move forward, a normal bidding process would take place, resulting in one or more contractors. She said that SolarCity, besides offering a price that was similar to other contractors, was a good fit because it offered a lot of support in administrating and marketing the pilot program and had the resources to get everything started quickly, in less than 60 days.

Want to learn more?

Visit www.solarbeaverton.org for more information.

Workshops on Solar Beaverton will be also be held June 8 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Sexton Mountain Elementary School, 15645 S.W. Sexton Mountain Drive; June 17 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Seventh Day Adventist Church, 14645 S.W. Davis Road and June 22 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Conestoga Recreation Center, 9985 S.W. 125th Ave.

 

 
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