Local investment in solar energy is smart choice

The City of Ashland has been promoting the use of solar energy since the early 1980s when we passed one of the first Solar Access Protection ordinances in the nation. This was followed up in 1996 by one of the first net metering laws in the Northwest. It encouraged grid-connected solar electric generating systems with simple interconnection standards and rewarded generators by paying the full retail price for excess generation.

We also instituted incentives for both solar electric and water heating systems in 1998. In 2000, the City launched the Solar Pioneer I Program. Crafting a partnership with The Bonneville Power Administration, The Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Avista, The Oregon Dept of Energy, Southern Oregon University and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, we installed four Solar Electric Generation Systems on SOU, OSF and City facilities. These four systems totaled 30kW in size. Nearly 300 citizens and businesses of Ashland voluntarily added a solar surcharge to their monthly electric bill to help support this program. One goal of the endeavor was to educate Ashland Citizens about solar photovoltaic technology and jumpstart our Solar Electric Incentive Programs.

What we have learned is two major obstacles stand in the way of getting more systems installed. One is the initial high cost for a solar electric system and the confusion and complexity of the deciding to expend thousands of dollars to install a system.

Secondly, many citizens or businesses that have the financial resources to install a system lack good solar access. These were the main motivators that led to Solar Pioneer II, Ashland's Community Solar Project. We utilized low interest federal financing, an Oregon State Business Energy Tax Credit purchased by Bank of the Cascades, and a competitive bidding process to construct a 63.5kW system on city facilities located at our service center at 90 N. Mountain Ave.

This system has 363 175-watt PV panels that will generate about 83,000 kW hours annually. Citizens and businesses are being given the opportunity to purchase the solar output of the system for 20 years. The cost of adopting one panel is $825.00 and 1/2 or 1/4 panels can also be purchased. You still have an opportunity to join me in supporting this concept by purchasing your own panel.

When questioned about the value of the 20 years of solar energy, an assumption about the future price of electricity needs to be made. If electricity prices escalate at — percent per year, the value of one panel's output for 20 years would equal about $475.00. Higher prices raise the value while increases lower than — percent reduce the total value.

The City of Ashland buys hydroelectric power from the Bonneville Power Administration. This keeps our rates much lower than anywhere else in the country. Unfortunately, the supply of this power is finite and as load increases much more expensive power will be added to the mix. Therefore, by conserving energy locally and producing our own renewable power, we can stretch this supply. Ashland has an excellent history of energy conservation. Between 1982 and 2007, per capita electric consumption has decreased from 8,483 kW hours per person per year, to 8,117 kW hours per person per year &

or a reduction of 366 kW hours. comparison in the U.S., consumption increased by 5,284 kW hour per person per year, while in Oregon it increased by just 3,597 kW hour per person per year from 1982 to 2006.

If Ashland's citizens and businesses pursue renewable resources with this same level of commitment, we can be the leader in this arena also. Participating in the Ashland Community Solar Pioneer II is a great initial step on the path to becoming more energy self-sufficient. Those interested should visit the city Web site or call 488-5357 for more information.

Director of Electric Utilities

City of

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