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"Crook County emerges as solar energy hot spot"

Projects ranging from a government initiative involving 20 to 30 buildings to the Facebook data center draw on a growing network of solar designers, installers and manufacturers based in Central Oregon.

"Crook County emerges as solar energy hot spot"

Sunlight Solar Installation - Solar Oregon

By Ed Marriman
The Bulletin
>>click here for original article

PRINEVILLE — Prineville and Crook County are fast becoming solar energy hot spots.

Projects ranging from a government initiative involving 20 to 30 buildings to the Facebook data center draw on a growing network of solar designers, installers and manufacturers based in Central Oregon.

The network includes several Bend-based companies, including solar contractor Sunlight Solar of Bend; PV Trackers, which manufactures sun-tracking systems for solar panels; and PV Powered, owned by Advanced Energy Industries, which makes solar inverters and electrical panels that turn solar energy into electricity for use in homes and businesses.

That homegrown technology, matched with solar panels manufactured by Hillsboro-based Solar World, has been installed by Sunlight Solar on the 99,000-watt solar system at the Facebook data center, the 8,000-watt solar system at the Crook County/Central Oregon Community College Computer and Education Center in Prineville and at the 150,000-watt solar system at the Bend Broadband data vault.

Now, Prineville and Crook County are adding yet another big solar project to the list.

The city and county are joining together to bring solar power to 20 to 30 government buildings in an attempt to reduce electrical costs for lighting, heating, cooling and operating computers and other equipment.

Mike McCabe, Crook County judge, said they are preparing to go out to bid for contractors and solar installers to add solar systems to provide part or possibly all of the power for the government buildings, and possibly streetlights.

McCabe said the electric bills amount to about $40,000 a year in Crook County. But a study conducted in 2010 by the city and county found that adding solar power to government buildings would significantly reduce those costs.

At Facebook, a solar power grid added during construction of the first Facebook data center is becoming a design model for future Facebook data centers built across the country, said Tom Furlong, the company’s director of site operations. The Facebook solar system provides energy for the site’s office building, not for the center’s data servers.

Paul Israel, president of Sunlight Solar, said getting the contract to install advanced solar systems using locally made components has enhanced the reputation of Central Oregon’s solar energy expertise. “Because of the large volume of work we have done in Central Oregon, large contractors have faith in small local companies to do the work,” he said.

It also has put people to work. Kyle Edgren, a journeyman electrician, came to work for Sunlight Solar about two years ago after he was laid off from a construction job wiring houses and apartment buildings for 15 years for Prineville Electric. He said he feels lucky that he found a job in a growing industry like solar energy.

“I like the fact that I am helping provide renewable energy. I think that’s pretty cool,” Edgren said.

 
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