Solar Projects on Hold in Bend Oregon

Solar power — By on September 15, 2008 at 8:32 pm
 Solar Projects on Hold in Bend Oregon

Recently, the Bend Bulletin newspaper reported that two major solar power projects in Central Oregon are “on hold.” Both the Redmond Airport and the downtown Bend parking garage have been planned to include solar panels in design and construction. However, recent questions from Pacific Power, the local electric company, has asked for clarification of applicable laws pertaining to solar power from the state legislature. As noted by the group, Environment Oregon, “The cities provide space for the solar panels and get reduced-cost electricity from them without having to come up with money for the panels. The solar companies get the tax breaks.”

Sounds like a great arrangement for both sides, doesn’t it? However, the primary issue for Pacific Power is related to “net metering.” When solar power installations generate enough power, they can turn back a home or business electric meter. The effect is that a person can sell electricity back to the power company, if more energy is captured than used. As a result, some power companies are concerned that a large installation — solar or otherwise — may effectively become another, less-regulated private utility.

The Bend solar array, which was slated for installation across the top of the downtown parking garage, would generate 200 kilowatts of electricity. Bend-based SunEnergy and the City entered into an agreement regarding provision and installation of the panels. The installation on the Redmond Airport terminal expansion would generate approximately kilowatts. Another fly in the ointment is the uncertain fate of federal tax credits. This aspect has a “chilling effect” on companies that contemplate partnering with local governments for solar projects. We’re all hoping that the state and federal legislatures figure out the details so that more solar power projects can move forward without delay and uncertainty.
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