The installation of a 100 kW system at the city’s water filtration plant and a 200 kW system at the wastewater treatment plant set the stage for the community-wide Solarize Pendleton program in 2010. Through research and discussions with area citizens, the city discovered that logistical and financial barriers were preventing residents from going solar. The city assigned Lee Jorgensen, a participant in the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments program, to study various renewable energy programs, incentive models and technologies related to solar, and develop a program that would simplify the process of going solar for area residents.
The city selected LiveLight Energy of Beaverton as lead contractor . In partnership with local electrical and roofing outfits, LiveLight Energy assembled the local installation teams. Next, the city collaborated with Solar Oregon and the Energy Trust of Oregon to conduct free educational workshops for residents about the basics of going solar. More than 250 residents attended free educational workshops and signed up for free solar and energy efficiency assessments from the Energy Trust and LiveLight Energy. This high level of participation resulted in better pricing for all, as LiveLight Energy agreed to a tiered pricing system. The more homeowners installing solar through Solarize Pendleton the lower the price for everyone.
To help further overcome the financial barrier of going solar, the city launched an innovative loan program. The city borrowed from its Sewer Bond Stabilization Fund to offer 50 zero interest loans at $9,000 each to homeowners participating in Solarize Pendleton. Repayment of the loans coincides with the homeowner’s receipt of their state and federal tax credits. Annual payments of $4,500 the first year and $1,500 the following three years allows residents to simply redirect their solar tax credits to the city as their loan payment. More than 90 applications were received for the loans, so the city held a lottery drawing during the Pendleton Farmer’s Market on Main Street to select those who would receive them.
A standard 2.3kW installation through the program will cost a homeowner approximately $14,000. Between the city loan, Energy Trust of Oregon rebate, and state and federal tax credits, homeowners are looking at out of pocket costs of less than $2,000 with a payback of under five years.
by Larry Lehman, City Manager, and Lee Jorgensen, RARE Student, Solarize Pendleton Manager
The above article is 1 of 4 centered on sustainability in the west. They first appeared in the 2012 April/May issue of Western Planner and are reprinted with permission from Western Planner.