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"Pilot home solar plans are worth exploring"

It is motivating to see local residents take an active interest in pursuing solar power as an alternative source of electricity to power their homes. Solar power is one of many forms of electricity production worth exploring as the nation and the state consider ways to reduce reliance on foreign oil and coal as sources of power to turn America on.

Beaverton Valley Times - Editorial
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It is motivating to see local residents take an active interest in pursuing solar power as an alternative source of electricity to power their homes. Solar power is one of many forms of electricity production worth exploring as the nation and the state consider ways to reduce reliance on foreign oil and coal as sources of power to turn America on.

Solar power is also a way to augment existing hydroelectric, gas-fired and wind-powered turbine production of electricity. Certainly, as we grow in population and economically, the requirements for electricity in the state will not diminish soon.

The city of Beaverton two weeks ago launched Solar Beaverton, a pilot program that hopes to have 50 Beaverton residences converted to solar power.

Meanwhile, the Oregon Public Utility Commission last week announced the details of a statewide project that requires Portland General Electric and Pacific Power to purchase electricity produced from homeowners who have installed residential solar systems. The utilities will be required to buy the power at more than six times what PGE presently sells the electricity it transmits to homes. The state’s idea is to stimulate interest in solar electricity generation among homeowners by providing an alternative incentive versus current solar subsidies.

We aren’t sure how these pilot programs will play out, but we think that they engage homeowners in not only being individually more sustainable, but having an active hand in helping shape public policies that can distinguish the state as Oregon looks for ways to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. What will be interesting to watch is not only the financial and electrical production results of these pilot programs, but just how homes with solar panels on their roofs will be accepted by neighbors and neighborhood organizations.

All too often, new physical features in a community prompt negative responses from some folks. Years ago, we saw that with the rapid deployment of cellular phone towers. And recently proposals by the Oregon Department of Transportation to erect a large solar panel test facility along Interstate 205 in West Linn has been challenged by homeowners, particularly residents of Oregon City, who say they would be offended to see the solar panel from their homes while looking across the pastoral Willamette River.

We can only imagine that solar panels dotting the rooftops of homes in Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood will produce equal concern about sight pollution and glare from the sun.

We don’t profess to know the economics or science of electricity production from rooftop solar panels. But seemingly, the city of Beaverton pilot project and the PUC-mandated project would seek to answer those questions and more. In Beaverton’s case, the cost for a homeowner to install a rooftop system is expected to be $11,750. After available tax credits, the cost would be $2,250. Not every home is best suited for power panels, and interest in the local pilot project has been initially strong. By late May, 65 residents had contacted the city about the program. For more information, contact the city of Beaverton at www.solarbeaverton.org.

Meanwhile, the plan recently approved by the state Public Utility Commission offers homeowners a much accelerated payment for electrical power that a home solar system would produce for sale back to PGE or Pacific Power. This plan is an alternative to the Beaverton pilot program of earning state and federal tax credits and a rebate from the Energy Trust of Oregon, all of which are seen as ways to reduce the initial cost of the solar systems.

Where all of these pilot sustainability projects, including efforts to stimulate Oregonians to begin using electric powered cars, end up won’t be known immediately. But getting involved at the outset is an entrepreneurial way of being a good citizen, an innovative consumer and a sustainable Oregonian.

 
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