It’s time for Oregon to go big on solar power

More of us are going solar, meeting our energy needs in a way that’s clean, local and independent. Consider:

  • Solar power has tripled in the U.S. in the last two years, with another American family or business going solar every four minutes.
  • That’s in part because the price of solar has dropped more than 50 percent since 2011.
  • The chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said that “solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything...It could double every two years.”

Who's attacking solar?

Unfortunately, solar power’s rapid growth has alarmed some dirty energy companies. They keep putting up new roadblocks to solar -- so they can keep solar generating less than 3% of our power, even if it means more pollution and more global warming.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Charles and David Koch, owners of the oil conglomerate Koch Industries, and their allies have spent heavily to impose new taxes on homeowners who go solar – in effect, penalizing those who reduce their pollution and their carbon footprint.
  • The Edison Electric Institute, which represents electric utility companies, has teamed up with the American Legislative Exchange Council to dismantle state pro-solar laws in Kansas, North Carolina and Washington State, amid others.
  • OklahomaArizona and Ohio already have moved to scale back their solar programs.

Keep the solar surge going strong

Solar power might disrupt the business plans of dirty energy companies, but it makes a ton of sense for America.

That’s why people from all walks of life are getting behind solar, from environmentalists to Tea Party activists, from solar entrepreneurs to Barry Goldwater, Jr., son of the former Republican nominee for president.

Our challenge is to not only fend off the attacks being led by the dirty energy lobby, but to keep the surge in solar power going strong.

How do we do it?

Our research shows the cities and states with the most solar power aren’t necessarily the ones with the most sunshine; they also include states with smart pro-solar policies. For example:

  • Arizona, Hawaii and California made the list of the top 10 states for solar in our 2014 report. But so did Massachusetts, New Jersey, Colorado and Delaware, all thanks to smart policies.
  • The top 10 solar states, with only 26% of the nation’s population, were responsible for 87% of the nation’s solar power.
  • Our report found all or nearly all of the states shared a set of smart policies in common, from strong clean energy standards to policies that let solar homeowners sell their extra power back to the utilities.

Community Solar

We need more and better pro-solar policies, not fewer. That’s why we’re urging the state legislature to pass a bill that would double the state’s commitment to renewable energy and create community solar, which allows individuals or businesses who cannot put solar panels on their own homes to buy panels in a community solar garden and receive all the same benefits as if they panels were installed on-site. Modeled after successful programs in other states, community solar has the potential to open the door for solar to a huge set of the population to whom it was previously unavailable.

Promoting local solar initiatives

Local communities in Oregon could be a model for solar growth across the state. We’re working in five cities (Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, Corvallis, Eugene, and Ashland) to convince local leaders to make solar a priority by setting goals for solar installation over the next five years, and passing policies to promote solar growth. Solar goals proposed by Environment Oregon represent a combined 245% increase in solar power in the cities over five years, or the equivalent of more than 3,000 residential solar rooftops. If Oregon increased installed solar capacity at the same rate, it would be the equivalent of 28,000 new solar rooftops statewide in the next five years. You can learn about what we’re proposing here!

Let's go big on solar

We think a combination of professional research and advocacy with community action can help America go big on solar. Why? Our national federation has done it before.

Environment California spearheaded the campaign for that state’s Million Solar Roofs Initiative. In Massachusetts, we helped convince the state to set a goal of enough solar to power 50,000 homes – and then persuaded the state to raise the goal when it hit the original milestone ahead of schedule. We’ve also won pro-solar policies in Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Arizona, New Jersey and North Carolina.            

But we have a long way to go to reach solar power’s true potential.

It’s time to go big on solar. If we take the right steps today, we can harness more power from the sun so we can finally leave dirty energy behind. The sky really is the limit.

Clean Energy Updates

Report | Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center

Municipal Solar Factsheet

Solar power is on the rise – nationally, installed solar capacity grew by 30% in 2014 alone. Environment Oregon is currently working to pass five-year solar installation targets in five cities (Eugene, Ashland, Corvallis, Lake Oswego, and Milwaukie) and the commensurate policies to aid in meeting these targets. So far, over 90 local businesses and hundreds of local residents have endorsed bold solar targets in their cities.

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Report | Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center

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Today, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) introduced legislation to stop offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean. His efforts come in the wake of a series of setbacks for Shell Oil, including damage to its sea vessels en route to the Chukchi Sea, and a penalty from the Obama administration for failing to comply with wildlife protections.

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As Oregon PUC investigates “Value of Solar,” report shows solar’s benefits

Households and businesses with solar panels deliver greater benefits than they receive through programs like net metering, a report said today, countering increasing complaints from utilities that solar homeowners don’t pay their fair share.

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