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Cities eye solar savings
Campaign aims to ease solar installation process for area homeowners
The Portland area is known for its long gray winters, with the sun peeking out only on rare occasions. So, with so much cloud cover, could solar energy make a difference?
The answer is a resounding yes, according to an initiative now starting up in Clackamas County.
The city of Portland's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability recently awarded Clackamas County $9,000 to reach out to the public with education about solar energy. The grant is being split between rural Clackamas County and the cities of West Linn and Lake Oswego with the goal of educating and encouraging residents to invest in solar panels, solar hot water heaters and solar pool heaters.
The bulk of the grant money will be used to host workshops to inform citizens about the cost of solar installation, the benefits and the minimum solar access requirements.
Glen Friedman, a West Linn resident and a consultant for the grant, said most people write off solar energy before learning all of the facts. Some people think their homes don't get enough sun to make it worthwhile, and others think the upfront costs are too high. But people may be surprised.
Friedman said 72 percent of Oregon has equal to or more solar radiation access than the entire state of Florida. He added that, even though Germany and Japan are ahead of the United States in solar usage, we have better solar access than those countries do.
'Don't rule it out,' he said. 'It works.'
As an architect and a solar supporter, Friedman generates electricity with solar panels installed on his roof and has solar hot water at his West Linn home. He contends the solar water heater reduced his water bill by half, and he shaves 20 percent off his electricity bill. He also estimates that a solar pool heater pays for itself in just one season.
Why should people consider solar energy?
'The bottom line is, solar saves money. It's a cleaner way to get energy,' Friedman said. 'The words 'no brainer' come up a lot.'
Friedman is heading up a committee composed of 10 area residents to spread word of the Solarize West Linn-Lake Oswego campaign.
The committee's first task is to secure contractors in negotiated deals to install solar projects in West Linn and Lake Oswego. Often, hiring and working with a contractor is the most daunting part of exploring solar power.
Residents who get solar panels installed through this program will receive discounted rates and free site assessments.
Friedman said he hopes solar energy will spread across the two cities.
'Once you start getting solar installed in the community, then more and more people are comfortable doing it on their own,' he said.
The committee aims to start community outreach in January with educational workshops, with at least one held in West Linn and one held in Lake Oswego.
The workshops will cover the basics of solar power and give residents a feel for how solar power works. They will also discuss the tax incentives available and incentives offered by Energy Trust of Oregon.
Other workshops may include contractors discussing the installation process and answering questions or workshops on the different ways to pay for solar installation.
'We're trying to make it as painless and easy as possible for people to get solar installed,' Friedman said.
He said the use of renewable energy - from sources such as solar, wind, rain and the tides - surpassed nuclear energy by 1 percent last year.
'I think it's catching on,' he said.