Daily Tidings
John Darling


Solar power backers are asking support for a slate of state House bills, including a Residential Energy Tax Credit they consider likely to pass.

That measure, House Bill 2447, is a state tax credit that pays half the cost of rooftop solar panels. It would extend to 2022 the installation costs, which are due to expire in 2018. 

Leading a small solar conclave Friday at the Ashland public library, Charlie Fisher, an “advocate” for the statewide Environment Oregon nonprofit group, said the state gets a “bad” rating for solar use now — only two-tenths of one percent of energy.

His organization and others have the goal of 10 percent by 2025. To do this, he said, it would take a quarter million rooftop solar units, but this is possible, as solar corporations are now the fastest-growing type of corporation in America 

In Oregon, the industry is looking primarily at the eastern 80 percent of the state, which is much sunnier than Massachusetts and Germany, two units that are way ahead of Oregon. 

Three other bills would do a lot for solarizing Oregon, and he asked that citizens join in a “lobby day” and buttonhole legislators on April 15, especially with phone calls and handwritten letters, which get much more attention than email. 

House Bill 2632 would incentivize big solar farms. HB 2745 extends the Feed-In Tariff or Solar Incentive Rate Pilot Program of 2009, due to expire next year. It would extend it to 2021. It has utilities pay solar residential producers for energy they produce, rather than just giving them a credit. It is opposed by the energy industry. HB 2941 gives benefits to you, if you can’t solarize your home, by letting you invest in off-site panels. 

Alan Journet of Jacksonville, president of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (SOCAN), painted the big picture of climate change in dark colors, noting we have to adapt to warming as we address “intergenerational justice” — the harm we are doing to people five generations from now. (This paragraph has been changed to correct the name of the organization of which Journet is president.)

The present drought in California and Oregon is not going to go away and will continue to lessen vital snowpack, the source of summer water supplies, he said. Wetter winters and drier summers are already a fact, he adds. 

While virtually all scientists predict climate impacts up till the year 2100, he notes, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has plotted it out to 2300, finding the shocking reality that temperatures will rise, not a few degrees but 21 degrees, a heat impact that is “absolutely unmanageable.” 

Journet says, “If we do not wake up to climate change, we’re going to be up the creek without a paddle ... Individual action is a necessary but insufficient response. Each of us can’t make or break the system but each of us has the responsibility to do all we can.” 

Would life be possible with the globe 21 degrees hotter three centuries from now? Journet said, “There’s not an ecosystem we know of that can survive in that. We would have a burned-out desert. There’s a very good chance it would result in the extinction of all life.” 

Eric Hansen, owner of True South Solar in Ashland, said, “We’re changing the world one rooftop at a time. Cost of solar is down 50 percent in the last five years. Your house is going to lower your heating bill. We need to make a huge collective change. We need to stop burning things.”

With passage of the state tax credit, homeowners will be able to pay off solar in under five years, he said, and his company is now able to set panels on east and west facing roofs with only a 10 or 15 percent loss of efficiency.