Milwaukie, OR- In a 5-0, the Milwaukie City Council voted last night to set a goal of tripling installed-solar capacity within the city by 2021 and to run a “Solarize” program, intended to streamline the process of “going solar” and bring down the upfront cost for customers. Tripling installed solar in Milwaukie would mean increasing total installed solar capacity from approximately 730 kW to 2.2 MW, the equivalent installing nearly 300 new residential solar rooftops.
The Solarize program is based on a model pioneered in several Portland neighborhoods in 2009. Between, 2009 and 2011, six “Solarize Portland” campaigns supported by the City added 1.7 MW of solar power on 560 homes. In 2010 alone, the number of total PV installations was almost 400% over the previous year.
“Given that Climate Change is the most important long term issue facing humanity, it boggles my mind that all levels of government are not aggressively addressing it at every turn,” said Mayor Mark Gamba. “This is just one step Milwaukie will be taking over the next few years to do our part to help forestall the worst effects of Climate Change. My hope is that in addition to a large increase in residential solar arrays, Milwaukie will build one or more community solar arrays and a number of larger arrays in our industrial areas.”
Oregon currently gets less than 1% of its total electricity comes solar power, but according to a recent report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the state has the technical potential to get almost a third of its energy from the sun based on its amount of solar-suitable rooftops. The price of solar has also come down by more than half since 2009, making it increasingly affordable for a growing number of people.
“We have incredible untapped potential for solar energy in Oregon, and Milwaukie is a shining example of a city that is rising to the occasion,” said Charlie Fisher, Environment Oregon’s clean energy advocate, “If solar installations grew statewide at the same rate as they’re poised to in Milwaukie, it would be the equivalent of adding 47,000 new solar rooftops in just five years.”
“Today’s biggest hurdles towards implementing more clean energy are increasing education and awareness, and Solarize has successfully helped to promote both,” said John Grieser, owner of Elemental Energy, a solar company that operates in the Portland metro area, “We couldn’t be happier to see Milwaukie coming aboard such a great program.”
This step by the City Council is part of a growing movement of local governments taking action to promote the adoption of clean energy in their community. Just last week, the City of Corvallis agreed to loan $100,000 to Seeds for the Sol, and local program that helps low-income households go solar. Additionally, Lincoln County is in the process of considering similar measures to the ones adopted by Milwaukie.
Fisher added, “It’s clear that we need bold action to tackle climate change. This step by the Milwaukie City Council will not only help get more clean energy on the grid now, but it will also send a signal to state leaders that clean energy needs to continue to be a priority.”