Oregon Ranks 13th in the Nation for Solar Power
Advocates and local leaders call on state to move forward on clean energy
A new report was released this month highlighting the solar energy boom across the country. Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America's Top 12 Solar States, by Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center, outlines the twelve states that have made a considerable contribution to the nation's rise in solar power.
Oregon missed the cut and ranks 13th in the nation for per capita solar installations. The report was released at the June Key Delta Community Center, under the landmark sustainable building and solar roof, and alongside local solar company, Synchro Solar.
"The sky's the limit on solar energy," said Sarah Higginbotham, the state director of Environment Oregon. "The progress of other states should give us the confidence that we can do much more. Our message today is clear: If we want our state to be a leader in pollution-free solar energy, we need to set big goals and get good policies on the books."
In 2012, solar capacity in Oregon grew by 39% bringing it to a total of 69 Megawatts. But Oregon still trails behind leading solar states such as Arizona and New Jersey that have more than 14 times as many solar installations per capita than Oregon.
Solar is on the rise across the country as well. America has more than three times as much solar photovoltaic capacity as it did in 2010, and more than 10 times as much as it did in 2007. And now the price of solar panels fell by 26 percent in 2012. Environment Oregon attributed the solar boom to the leadership of state officials, especially those in states profiled in the report.
“More and more, homes and businesses are turning to solar as a pollution-free energy source with no fuel costs,” said Higginbotham. “With the increasing threat of global warming, Oregon must become a leading solar state.”
Released in Portland at the June Key Delta Community Center, the city’s first “living building,” speakers highlighted the 18 KW rooftop solar array that generates enough energy to power all the facility’s electrical needs. Since the installation of the solar array, just over a month, the center’s electrical energy bill has been cut in half.
“Thankfully with limited options, this solar project was able to happen and is something to celebrate, but I am here to say that there are literally hundreds of other nonprofits small farms small businesses, homeowners across Oregon that want to engage in solar,” said Sarah Freel, co-owner of Synchro Solar, the Portland company that installed the system on the June Key Delta Community Center.
The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy for the development of the solar industry.
States profiled in the report include: Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Vermont.
While these 12 states account for only 28 percent of the U.S. population, they make up 85 percent of the nation’s installed solar energy.
The report highlights the strong policies adopted by the top solar states that encourage homeowners and businesses to “go solar.” Most notably:
- 11 of the 12 have strong net metering policies, which allow customers to offset their electric bills with onsite solar and receive reliable and fair compensation for the excess electricity they provide to the grid.
- 11 of the 12 states have renewable electricity standards, requiring utilities to provide a minimum amount of their power from renewable sources; and nine of them have solar carve outs, which set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean onsite power.
- 10 of the 12 have strong statewide interconnection policies. Interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
- The majority of the top solar states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements and property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.
Environment Oregon is joined by dozens of small businesses, local elected officials, and organizations calling for more solar energy in the state.
“Right now less than 1% of our energy comes from solar,” concluded Higginbotham. “By setting a bold goal of getting 10 percent of our energy from the sun by 2025 and adopting strong policies to back up that goal, Oregon can follow in the footsteps of the top solar states and start paving the way for the rest of the country. In order to achieve this goal, we need the commitment from our state leaders to enable policies that will grow solar development in Oregon.”