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Soak up the sun

Solarize West Linn-Lake Oswego campaign extends through month of August


This summer, there are more ways than one to take advantage of the area’s sunny weather.

Now through the end of August, local residents have the opportunity to explore their options when it comes to solar energy via the recently extended Solarize West Linn-Lake Oswego campaign.

Last year, the city of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability awarded Clackamas County $9,000 for public outreach efforts to educate locals about solar energy. The funds were split between rural Clackamas County and the cities of Lake Oswego and West Linn, and the Solarize West Linn-Lake Oswego campaign was formed.by: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn resident Nancy Bond, resource conservation specialist for Portland Public Schools, incorporates green living into many aspects of her home. She's seen here with her chicken, Dandelion.

Since January, the campaign has hosted a variety of community workshops detailing the costs, benefits and minimum solar access requirements behind solar hot water systems, solar pool heaters and solar panels. It also offers residents of both Lake Oswego and West Linn the opportunity to qualify for discounts and incentives and free site consultations.

Glen Friedman, West Linn resident, architect and project manager for the Solarize West Linn-Lake Oswego campaign, said its organizers are at about 75 percent of their participation goal.

He estimates that about 120 homeowners in the two cities have had their homes evaluated for solar energy installation — whether or not they were eligible for installation or decided to have it installed.

“With solarize projects, it’s always hard when you do them in the dead of winter,” he said. “You’re more likely to get people to get evaluated during the summer months.”

He said about 100 other community members have attended one of Solarize West Linn-Lake Oswego’s workshops without signing up for a site evaluation.

“It’s gone really well, if for no other reason, because we’ve educated a lot of people,” he said. “’Even from an educational point of view I think it’s done a lot. The awareness level is increased about the availability in our region and our cities.”

Above all, he encourages interested homeowners to have their sites evaluated through the campaign.

Friedman, who has installed solar hot water and electricity systems at his own home, said the biggest stumbling block for homeowners considering solar energy has been shading issues that prevent their homes from meeting solar exposure requirements needed for some financial incentives.

A friend of his who lives in the Hidden Springs neighborhood, for example, only met 72 percent of the 75 percent exposure requirement necessary because of some branch shadows. He had recently had his trees trimmed, Friedman said, and if he’d had this information in advance he could have had them trimmed a different way.

On the other hand, Friedman said some homeowners, like Nancy Bond, who assumed they weren’t eligible for solar energy, have learned otherwise through their site evaluations.

Bond, a West Linn resident and a member of Solarize West Linn-Lake Oswego’s planning committee, decided to investigate installing solar technology at her own home after hosting one of the workshops.

“I was leaning toward it because it’s in line with my personal values, but I was uncertain how I would do it and how I would afford it,” said Bond, the resource conservation specialist for Portland Public Schools.

After learning about the different systems and the financing options and incentives available to her through organizations such as the Energy Trust of Oregon, Bond said her decision was made.

She said her site evaluation from Sunlight Solar, an Oregon City-based solar energy contractor, was particularly helpful.

During the evaluation a consultant took measurements of Bond’s roof and determined her home’s solar exposure.

“He spent a lot of time with me talking about what the system would do and how much power it would generate and what it would look like,” she said. “I thought about it for a couple of days, tried to figure out why I shouldn’t do it and couldn’t think of any reason.”

She had solar panels and a solar hot water system installed last week.

“It’s been painless,” she said. “The staff at Sunlight Solar is professional, courteous and completely tidy. There was almost no indication they had been there except that the work was getting done.”

She said Sunlight Solar was also able to accommodate her request to have both solar electricity and solar hot water heating systems installed on the same day. She was also able to schedule both systems on one day.

“I feel like they’ve been completely responsive,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot. They’ve been very patient as I ask a million questions as I get it right, because this is a system that I will be living with for many, many years.

“I want it right, and I believe that they are going to get it right.”

Residents of West Linn and Lake Oswego have until the end of August to sign up for site evaluations through the campaign, which qualifies them for additional financial discounts and incentives, including federal and state tax credits.

Bond said she couldn’t have afforded the solar energy systems without the financial discounts available through the Solarize West Linn-Lake Oswego campaign.

Now that the systems have been installed, she said, as she only uses a small amount of electricity, she expects her electricity bill to be zeroed out except for meter charges — about $10 a month.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to use federal and state tax credits,” she said. “I think this is a perfect example of what tax credits should be used for to help us be a little bit more independent in our energy production and to have individual homeowners be able to generate some of their own power.

“It’s fiscally responsible and environmentally responsible and it’s local jobs, and so that’s all good.”

The campaign will be hosting community workshops on Tuesday at Marylhurst University’s old library room in the BP John Building and Aug. 7 at West Linn’s Robinwood Station. Both begin at 6:30 p.m. It will also have information available the West Linn Old Time Fair.

After the campaign is complete, Friedman said, the group will consider additional events this fall, including the possibility of a solar home tour.

“I think solar in my head, so we’ll be doing something, I’m sure,” he said.

However, Friedman said the price of solar energy has come down to the point where, in another year or so, the financial aid solarize programs offer may or may not be necessary.

Bond’s advice to homeowners considering solar energy is to attend one of Solarize West Linn-Lake Oswego’s workshops to learn what they need to know to get started.

“I felt very well prepared as I entered this,” she said. “I’m a cautious person, especially financially, and I feel like this is exactly the right decision.

“It’s completely in line with my personal values to lighten my environmental footprint as much as I responsibly can.”

For more information about Solarize West Linn-Lake Oswego, visit solarizewllo.org.




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