In an effort to spur the adoption of solar energy in Central Oregon, Solar Now! will hold its third annual conference, Solar Now! University, in Bend beginning Thursday evening.
Solar Now!, a collaboration between two nonprofits — Solar Oregon and Energy Trust of Oregon — as well as the Oregon Department of Energy and the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, was originally established to promote the use of solar energy in the Portland area, said Claire Carlson, executive director of Solar Oregon.
After successfully increasing the use of solar energy in Portland, she said, the organization decided to expand its mission to the rest of the state by creating the annual conference.
The conference, being held at McMenamins Old St. Francis School, will open with a reception Thursday at the Deschutes Brewery & Public House. While solar installation companies are invited to attend, the conference is geared toward educating the public and providing a networking opportunity for community leaders who want to develop solar projects in Central Oregon, Carlson said.
“The solar landscape changes so much year to year," she said. “Having knowledge about tax credits and incentives, the cost of solar, what is available to homeowners, ownership options and utility policies, makes getting solar projects off the ground easier."
Topics at the conference will include solar housing development, developing neighborhood solar projects, the future of solar as an industry, increasing access to solar energy and solar policies and incentives, according to the agenda.
Evan Elias, energy analyst for the Oregon Department of Energy, is scheduled to speak about the new energy incentive programs for solar.
In his presentation, he said, he will discuss the way the new program is similar to and differs from its long-standing predecessor, the Business Energy Tax Credit program.
“Due to caps that were imposed on the new program, some solar projects will have to compete for incentives (grants)," he wrote in an email. “However, in other cases, projects may qualify for the Small Premium Project part of the program that will have a more streamlined or prescriptive approach."
The goal of the conference is to get projects happening, Carlson said, which will stimulate the local economy and increase the growth of renewable energy in the area.
Having the conference in Bend reflects the interests and values of the community, said Mike Riley, the executive director of The Environmental Center. Riley, who helped organize the event, said from local government, businesses and residents installing solar energy panels and other solar devices to the large number of businesses that are oriented toward renewable energy, there’s a lot of interest in solar in Central Oregon.
He noted that the citizens of Bend made renewable energy a priority in the action plan for the Bend 2030 “vision," a community-developed plan for what Bend would look like in the year 2030.
“It’s great for us to be able to host an event like this," he said. “We can learn more about what is going on in other parts of the state, hear the case studies and think about how we could either replicate or adapt what’s working in our community."