University of Oregon

Resource Assistance for Rural Environments

Solar ‘pioneer’: Renewable energy project coming to HR public works

A group of renewable energy leaders gathered Thursday to celebrate a solar array slated for construction atop the Hood River Public Works building.

Partners in the project highlighted the trailblazing aspect of bringing the solar development to town.

“This is really a pioneering effort and we hope to see it replicated (elsewhere),” Dan Orzech, Oregon Clean Power Cooperative general manager, said.

The nearly 30-kilowatt solar system, installed by Common Energy, is projected to save the city about $11,000 in electric costs in the first 10 years and nearly $97,000 over 25 years. It will also reduce carbon emissions.

The solar endeavor united various statewide and local organizations.

The cooperative-ownership model that led to the project’s creation — with partial funding coming from community investors — is based on 2014 legislation enacted by the Oregon Legislature, which allows residents to finance renewable energy via clean energy projects.

SB 1520 allows renewable energy cooperative corporations to be created and capitalized without the former set of security registration requirements.

“This has been a long time in the works,” Orzech said of the project in Hood River.

Marla Harvey, Hood River County’s energy and sustainability coordinator, introduced speakers. Harvey, who stepped into the role last fall, noted that she took on efforts related to the solar project as one of her first undertakings in Hood River.

City Council members Becky Brun and Kate McBride attended the event.

Brun lauded the project, explaining, “we have a lot of interest on our council in pursuing goals” related to clean energy. She said such projects will reduce taxpayer costs.

“It’s a great way to get a return on investment,” said Joe Giordano, an OCPC board member.

Set to be the first project of its kind in Hood River, the array at the city building, 1200 18th St., was financed in part by local residents, along with the Energy Trust of Oregon, and installed by local solar company Common Energy.

It’s set for construction on the south side of the public works building.

Scott Sorenson of Common Energy said the placement will give it more consistent sunlight. “We want winter sun,” he said.

The solar project should be finished within a month. Sorenson said parts of the structure that will hold up the system will go up in about two weeks, with solar panel installation shortly after that.

Mark Lago, Public Works director, explained that the city has other, smaller solar-power systems, such as the Cale parking meters downtown and pedestrian lights by the Hood River Library. However, this project was a much larger undertaking.

“I love that this has really brought our community together,” Sorensen said.

Originally Published in Hood River News
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