The Central Oregon Coast is not a place many people immediately associate with solar energy. But statewide environmental advocacy group Environment Oregon thinks it should be. Last night they held a Solar Power Happy Hour to bring state legislators, local elected officials and community members together to discuss an ongoing effort to bring more solar power to Lincoln County.
The event was hosted by Rogue Ales on the Newport Bayfront and was attended by over 50 people who want to see more solar in their community. Attendees learned how they can help promote local solar development, either by installing it themselves, or calling on their elected leaders to make it more affordable and accessible.
Lincoln County Commissioner Bill Hall spoke about his leadership with the ongoing Lincoln County solar campaign led by Environment Oregon. Rio Davidson, owner of local solar company Cascade Coast Solar, spoke about the process of going solar, including cost, rebates and incentives, and touched on how residents can use solar for disaster preparedness. And Wade Kerry of Central Lincoln PUD spoke about their clean energy and energy efficiency incentives, and introduced the possibility of implementing a community solar program. Environment Oregon campaign organizer, Bobbi Wilson, spoke about the importance of strong solar policy at all levels of government, and encouraged community members to get involved with the campaign.
“There is incredible untapped potential for solar in Oregon, even in cloudier coastal regions. Places like Massachusetts and don’t get any more sunlight than we do, but they generate significantly more solar power because their leaders have enacted the right policies to support it,” says Environment Oregon campaign organizer, Bobbi Wilson.
Environment Oregon is pushing for two main actions by the county: 1) setting a goal of tripling solar capacity over the next five years; and 2) running a county-wide “Solarize” program to help hit the target. With Solarize programs, the county organizes workshops to educate and engage the public about Solarize, and at the same time a solar installer offers limited-time discounts to anyone who signs up for an installation through the program. The Solarize model was pioneered by the City of Portland and has been used by municipal governments across the country to put cleaner energy on the gird and stimulate growth in the solar market.
Supporters agree that solar is an especially important resource on the Oregon coast. Not only does solar reduce carbon pollution from electricity, but the solar industry also provides jobs and economic benefits to the community. And as coastal cities prepare for a catastrophic earthquake that may result in a long-term grid outage, solar can be used as an alternative energy source to power critical facilities.
As part of the Lincoln County solar campaign, Environment Oregon is working to collaborate with the seven cities of Lincoln County. Forty local businesses have signed on to a letter supporting the initiative, and the event was co-sponsored by the Economic Development Alliance of Lincoln County, Mid-Coast Watersheds Council, Buy Local Lincoln County, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Lincoln County Democrats, and Oregon Shores.
Photos of the event can be found here.