Soaking in the Sun
By Bridget Callahan
Oregon Rural Action
It’s a well-known fact that Eastern Oregon is reputable for its sunny days. And here at Oregon Rural Action we feel it’s time we put that sunshine to use.
My name is Bridget Callahan, and I’m the Energy Organizer for Oregon Rural Action. Part of my job over this coming year is to utilize this natural resource and become part of the growing movement in Oregon to go solar, focusing on solar hot water systems.
Like many rural communities, however, Union County faces a unique set of challenges. For example, we are outside Energy Trust of Oregon territory, a nonprofit funded through the major utility companies in Oregon. Residents that lie in Energy Trust territory are given an instant rebate for installing a solar system, making the overall cost substantially cheaper. Our local utility company also offers no incentive for solar hot water systems. Additionally, we are also outside the realm of many financial institutions that have traditionally offered low-interest loans to homeowners looking to go solar.
Due to the financial hurdles, Eastern Oregon has been slower to embrace solar. But all that is now changing. Oregon Rural Action has partnered with Union County and Union Wallowa Baker Federal Credit Union to offer very attractive financing. Additionally, with available state and federal tax credits, homeowners can enjoy a system for less than half the price.
Solarize Union County is also collaborating with Mr. Sun Solar, an Oregon-based industry leader. Owner John Patterson is contracting with local plumbers and apprentices during the project so Eastern Oregon retains the education and enthusiasm for solar long after Solarize Union County is over.
This project is more than simply putting panels on homeowner’s rooftops. We’re looking to transform Eastern Oregon communities into renewable energy markets, leading the way for other rural communities to follow suit. While rural communities tend to be land-rich but in many other ways poor, taking advantage or our local renewable resources is a wonderful opportunity to empower and revitalize rural economies across Oregon and beyond.