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Harnessing the sun

West Linn resident installs solar panels for energy-saving at home
by: SUBMITTED PHOTOS West Linn resident Curt Sommer installed a solar panels on his roof, which he is leasing from Citizenre. They became operational last month and Sommer said the system is providing 40 to 50 percent of his household’s electricity demand.

Instead of paying extra through a utility company, one West Linn resident is bringing renewable energy resources home, taking advantage of an opportunity to have a home solar panel system - without a hefty investment.

Curt Sommer, who holds a master's degree in geography with a specialization in renewable energy development, said he's a strong advocate of technology such as solar panels.

He had a solar panel system installed on the roof of his home in late October, and it became operational in mid-November after passing city and county inspections.

'This system was actually hassle-free and similar to getting satellite TV or a home security system,' he said.

Sommer leased the panels, which were assembled by Eugene-based Grape Solar, through a company called Citizenre, one of several that allow homeowners to take advantage of solar panel technology without purchasing the systems outright.

'Historically, buying a solar system usually meant an upfront investment of as much as $40,000 or more, but that is not the case anymore,' he said.

Because the system is leased, Sommer said he didn't have to purchase any equipment and that, after 10 years, the panels will be upgraded with new technology.

'It has most of the advantages of ownership without the hassles of purchasing,' he said. 'I didn't have to take care of any permitting and I'm not responsible for maintaining it.'

The solar panels also come with more money-saving advantages as well.

Sommer said the system provides about 40 to 50 percent of his household's electricity demand a month, which in turn displaces part of its electricity demand from Portland General Electric. And, he said the rate he pays to Portland General Electric is lower than the rate he pays to Citizenre; a rate that is fixed for 20 years.

'If the point is to save money on your power bill, why put up a huge investment only to have to wait six to eight years for the system to pay for itself?' he said.

While PGE does have a renewable power option as part of its billing options, customers have to pay extra for it, he added.

Looking toward the future, Sommer said the system would further reduce his household's power bill during warmer summer months. Because the system absorbs heat from the sun where his roof gets the warmest, he said he wouldn't need to run his air conditioner as often.

Looking at the big picture, Sommer said he encourages all homeowners to investigate installing solar panels not only to protect the environment against climate change but also to help create jobs to promote economic security and to reduce the United States' dependence on foreign oil.

'The United States needs an energy policy that reflects the increasing scarcity of fossil fuels, but short of that - or perhaps because of a lack of leadership - it is up to the citizens to take action to increase their energy self-sufficiency' he said. 'It's been a great experience because you don't even realize they are there but on that occasions when I do happen to look at the roof, it feels good to know that I'm doing something to help our country but also helping our family as well.'

For more information, contact Sommer at 503-407-1826 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..