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Founded in 1979, Solar Oregon is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit membership organization providing public education and community outreach to encourage Oregonians to choose solar energy.
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First Eastern Oregon Solar Fair

First Eastern Oregon Solar Fair

First Eastern Oregon Solar Fair

McCracken Solar Home

The drive to La Grande is one of the best in Oregon, and this trip, as I descended from the Blue Mountains into the Grande Ronde Valley I was once more reminded how beautiful and rich this part of the state can be. And, as if I needed any other reason to put Union County in my travel plans for June, now I have one, a great solar event!


Oregon Rural Action with help from volunteers and Solar Oregon hosted the first Eastern Oregon Solar Fair in early June this year. Thanks to the hard work of event organizer Nella Parks of ORA and community leaders like Howard Butts of the Union County Alternative Energy Committee, Susan Badger-Jones of Energy Trust of Oregon and many others, this three day event was a shining success. With over 80 attendees for the workshops, vendor fair and home tours, I was blown away by the level of interest and support for solar energy in the community.


The highlight of the event for me was by far the two day tour of local homes. Each homeowner did an excellent job of showing off their system and as we rode from home to home I made friends with my bus mates, chickens, dogs and even a turkey. In visiting these homes we were able to see how each had evaluated their lifestyle needs and found a way to use solar technology to help meet those needs.


A solar water heating system has been serving Paul and Roberta Dalgllesh’s family since their son installed it 31 years ago. The day we visited we were greeted by a handful of redheaded grandchildren who ran among us as we gazed up at the panels sitting above their back porch and followed us down into the basement where their grandfather pointed out his storage tank and the pump that has yet to need maintenance.


Other homes were using multiple energy efficiency measures and solar systems like Mary McCracken’s home with solar water heating, straw bale walls, rammed earth floors and pole mounted photovoltaic panels. As we walked around her yard, a bare foot Mary pointed out a nest of fledgling kestrels who had taken up residence above the awning formed by solar water heating panels. These panels were designed by Kent Osterberg of Blue Mountain Energy to take advantage of the sun’s position in summer to help keep the house cool and in the winter to allow increased production from the panels.


After spending some time speaking with the community members it soon became evident that solar energy wasn’t a new idea to these folks, in fact I spent very little time convincing anyone of the merits of solar energy. Instead I listened. They told me how they see solar as a practical and cost effective way to invest in the future and strengthen rural economies. In fact, their belief that solar will play an important part in the energy future of communities across Union County and Eastern Oregon is so strong that after spending a little time with them, I was the one who walked away feeling more confident.


>>click here to check out photos of our trip on Facebook


Claire Carlson

Education Coordinator

Solar Oregon

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