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"Here Comes the Sun"

More than 50 people gathered at Corvallis High School on Friday afternoon to celebrate the installation of a 2.3-kilowatt solar system on the school’s roof.

"Here Comes the Sun"

Solar panels gleam atop Corvallis High School on Wednesday. CHS received a $20,000 grant from Wal-Mart for the project. (Scobel Wiggins/Gazette-Times)

By Raju Woodward, Gazette-Times reporter - click here for original article


More than 50 people gathered at Corvallis High School on Friday afternoon to celebrate the installation of a 2.3-kilowatt solar system on the school’s roof.

“You couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day to hold this,” said Alayna Weimer, the manager of the Lebanon Wal-Mart store. Weimer was one of several speakers at the event, which featured live music, solar energy information booths and root beer floats.

A $20,000 grant from Wal-Mart paid for the project. CHS received the grant this past June after winning the retailer’s “Earth Day Every Day School Challenge” for being the nation’s most eco-friendly school. A crew from Energy Design, a Eugene-based solar energy construction company, installed 11 solar panels on the school’s roof earlier this week.

The school’s goal is eventually to have a 100 kW solar system on its roof. To get there, plans are to add a 10 kW system every year for the 10 years. That could reduce the building’s energy bill by as much 20 percent.

Fred Kane, the executive director of the Corvallis Public Schools Foundation, has applied for a $50,000 grant through Pacific Power for the solar system project.

“This is definitely a long-term project,” Kane said. “It will have to be funded through more grants or donations. But now that we’ve got the initial phase done, it should get easier. I think we can get to 100 kW in less than 10 years.”

CHS senior Claire Meints and 2009 CHS graduate Chris Becker thanked a long list of people and organizations that helped with the solar panel installation. They were heavily involved with the project and spent hours meeting with different solar energy experts to develop an action plan for the project.

“I’m so excited,” Meints said. “This is something I have been involved with since my sophomore year. It was one of the major things I wanted to see happen before I graduated.”

CHS wasn’t the only place in Corvallis that held a solar system celebration Friday. More than 200 people visited Oregon Rubber Mills Co. on Airport Road to view the company’s 127 kW system, which was also installed by Energy Design.

Installation of the system was completed in December, but company officials waited to hold a celebration until the weather got better.

“We didn’t want it to be raining or cloudy,” said co-president Dave Morris. “It turned out perfect, considering we planned this eight weeks ago. You can’t ask for better weather as far as solar energy goes.”

Visitors were treated to a barbecue and tours of the company’s large, on-ground solar system, a type not as common as roof systems. However, president Dave Lowe Sr. wasn’t crazy about the idea of putting such a large system on the building.

“It didn’t make sense to put it on the roof,” Lowe Sr. said. “Especially when we are in a state like Oregon, where it rains a lot. I didn’t want there to be leaks. But this one, I am definitely in favor of this one.”

In fact, Lowe Sr. said he hopes to install another system at the same site in the future. He said it would be smaller than the current one.

The 459-feet-long, 20-feet-wide structure features 595 panels, which each produce about 215 watts of power. The project, which cost $600,00, could reduce Oregon Rubber Mills Co.’s electricity bill by as much as 8 percent.

“This was a big project for us,” said Energy Design President Vince McClellan. “One of the biggest we’ve ever done. It came together well.”

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