Solar Works for Oregon

The Vast Potential of Solar Power to Protect Our Environment and Create Jobs
Released by: Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Oregon has vast untapped potential for solar energy. In the eastern twothirds of the state, Oregon’s solar resource rivals that of California’s sunny Central Valley. Even in the often cloudy Willamette Valley, the sun still shines for far more over the course of the year than it does in Germany, which has the world’s largest solar market.

Solar power can supply 10 percent of Oregon’s electricity by 2025. At the same time, solar thermal power can reduce Oregon’s energy use for water heating by 6 percent. This level of solar energy production could be achieved through a combination of rooftop solar photovoltaic panels, rooftop solar water heating systems, and utility-scale solar power stations.

Taking advantage of the state’s solar energy potential would reduce Oregon’s contribution to global warming and protect its environment. More solar power would also create jobs and boost manufacturing in Oregon. Putting policies in place to accelerate the growth of the solar energy market will allow Oregon to start reaping these benefits immediately.

Oregon sunlight is an enormous source of untapped energy potential.

• Utilizing all available rooftop space with suitable sun exposure, Oregon could technically install 10 gigawatts (GW) of rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems by 2025—which would generate about 20 percent of Oregon’s forecast electricity use in that year. Rooftop solar provides unique advantages for the electricity  system because the power is generated close to where it will be used, minimizing the need to invest in power lines and other infrastructure and increasing the reliability of electricity service.

• Oregon could feasibly develop almost 30 percent of that rooftop solar potential in the next 13 years. Doing so would yield 3 GW of local solar photovoltaic capacity by 2025. This amount of solar power would generate the equivalent of nearly 6 percent of Oregon’s annual electricity needs in 2025, or 3.3 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh). That is enough electricity to power 250,000 typical Oregon homes—or all the homes in the city of Portland.

• New utility-scale solar power plants built on vacant land could generate another 3 billion kWh annually by 2025, bringing solar energy to 10
percent of Oregon’s electricity supply.

• Installing rooftop solar water heating systems at the same pace as rooftop solar PV would yield 290,000 residential-scale systems and 16,000 commercial-scale systems by 2025. Those systems could capture enough solar energy to reduce Oregon’s energy use for residential and commercial water heating by 6 percent, saving an additional 370 million kWh of electricity and 2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year. That much energy could meet the full water heating needs of more than 150,000 Oregon households.

Solar energy prevents global warming pollution and protects Oregon’s environment.

• At this rate of growth, by 2025 solar energy in Oregon would annually prevent 3.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution, reducing the state’s contribution to global warming by nearly 8 percent in to eliminating the emissions from 730,000 passenger cars on the road today.

• Preventing global warming pollution is critical to ensure a stable environment. Unchecked, global warming threatens to increase average temperatures in Oregon by as much as 10° F by the 2080s. Temperature rise on this scale would reduce winter snowpack, threaten urban and rural water supplies, interfere with agriculture and salmon habitat, and create health threats—including increased air pollution, exposure to extreme heat and weather events, and introduction of new diseases. At the same time, global warming pollution is acidifying the ocean, threatening salmon and other ocean species.

Increasing the market for solar power in Oregon could make the state a leader in the regional solar power industry, create jobs and boost the state economy.

• Oregon’s solar industry today employs 3,300 workers at 545 firms— and its solar job market is growing faster than in all but five other states.

• Oregon has already attracted at least six major solar technology manufacturers, including SolarWorld in Hillsboro, a company that employs more than 1,000 people at America’s largest solar PV manufacturing facility.

• Expanding Oregon’s solar energy market would create thousands of additional jobs in system manufacturing, and particularly in installation and maintenance—jobs that cannot be outsourced.

Oregon should enact policies to accelerate solar energy development.

• Oregon should set a goal of generating 10 percent of its electricity from solar energy by 2025, and a parallel goal of installing 300,000 residential and commercial solar water heating systems by 2025. The state could achieve these goals through a combination of expanded incentive programs (such as the program run by the Energy Trust of Oregon), a scaled-up CLEAN program (a “feed-in tariff”), and/or by expanding the solar carve-out in its renewable electricity standard.

• Oregon should standardize net-metering rules statewide and raise the net-metering cap to a minimum of 5 percent of utility peak aggregate demand—eventually eliminating the cap altogether. Net-metering should allow every individual, business or community that installs a solar energy system to earn fair compensation for the electricity they produce.

• Oregon should create a net-zero energy building code, requiring all new homes to generate the equivalent of their entire energy use annually by 2020, and all new commercial
buildings by 2030.

• Oregon should reinvigorate state financing programs, such as the Residential Energy Tax Credits, and reinstate the Business Energy Tax Credit for a variety of renewable
energy technologies.