In an important move toward clean energy, the Oregon state legislature recently passed a bill called the “Clean Energy and Coal Transition Plan” that will wean the state off coal completely by 2030. This huge step shows that the U.S. takes its carbon reduction commitment seriously and paves the way for more states to follow suit with clean energy plans of their own.
Oregon, whose biggest power supply is currently hydropower, will need to replace the one third of its energy mix that’s occupied by coal. The new laws are paving the way for alternative energy sources, particularly solar.
The state already has one of the best residential solar financing options in the U.S.—solar PV roof mount systems are paying for themselves within 4 to 7 years thanks to Oregon’s state government subsidies. And, once the systems are paid off, they make additional money for their owners.
However, solar energy currently accounts for a mere one tenth of one percent of Oregon’s energy makeup. So how can solar energy close the gap?
Utility-scale solar installations, like ground mount or landfill solar, will likely play a big role. These solar projects can be customized to a variety of ground situations. They have a much greater capacity to harvest large amounts of energy due to the sheer number of solar modules. And, thanks to a new law signed by Oregon governor Kate Brown in March, utility-scale solar has a half-cent per kilowatt hour incentive.
Businesses have great potential to help fill the energy gap with solar. Large stores and warehouses with long, relatively flat roofs are good candidates for large-scale roof mount projects. Roof mount solar, in addition to offsetting the cost of daily operations, is an attractive option for many as it does not require the construction of a new structure to place the solar modules on.
Community solar is an arrangement in which members of a community share the benefits of a local solar energy installation. This is a great solution for renters, condominium owners, and homeowners who don’t have enough space or permission to install solar modules, or who may not be in a suitable location for solar. Rules are currently being formulated by the Oregon Utility Commission to allow investor-owned utilities to develop these kinds of community solar projects.
Oregon’s clean energy plan is a big step forward for the state, whose ultimate goal is to reduce its carbon emissions to 25 percent of its 1990 levels by 2050. Solar energy has great potential to revolutionize the state’s energy structure.