Here comes the sun

County to funnel savings from solar to other energy-efficient projects
by: SUBMITTED PHOTO Eric Garcia and Ronnie Minden, electricians with Frahler Electric, installed solar panels earlier this month atop the county’s Development Services Building in Oregon City.

The roofs of Clackamas County's Development Services Building in Oregon City have been electrified with the addition of solar-panel installation.

The photovoltaic system will have a 65 kW capacity, powered by 273 modules manufactured in the U.S. (meeting federal Buy American guidelines by Sharp USA) and generating about 67,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

Two inverters manufactured by PV Powered of Bend convert the power to connect to the grid. The $350,000 project is funded by the U.S. Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Clackamas County is directing funding from this grant program to boost rebates for businesses and homeowners doing energy-efficiency upgrades. The program offers incentives for homebuilders to construct homes that exceed minimum energy performance codes, a whole-home energy retrofit program through Clean Energy Works Oregon, workshops and a new Energy Steward certification program to county residents, and upgrades of public buildings owned by the county and several cities.

Costs for solar photovoltaic systems are declining rapidly and numerous solar systems have been installed by private companies and public agencies in Clackamas County in the past year (examples include Gladstone Schools, ProLogis and Lever Farm/3C Solar).

Clackamas County has reserved a spot for the system in Portland General Electric's pilot 'Solar Payment Option' program in which PGE provides a production incentive to the solar system owner based on actual electricity generation, which helps defray the cost of the array. The county plans to use all proceeds from the incentive to seed additional projects for energy efficiency and renewable energy.