Whether you have noticed new solar panels on your neighbor’s house, the two adjacent solar farms east of Bend, or heard about the large solar farms under construction in Crook County, you have likely realized that solar power in Oregon has been growing a lot in recent years. What’s causing the growth? It appears to be the result of new technological improvements and a variety of regulatory actions and financial incentives enacted by the state legislature.
The Oregon legislature took significant action towards supporting the solar power industry in 2007 when it instituted a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). An RPS requires the increased production of energy from renewable energy sources like solar power. Oregon’s RPS was revised in 2009 to include a separate 20 megawatt solar power requirement by 2020. Oregon’s RPS was again been revised in March, 2016 to require 27% of Oregon’s electricity come from renewable resources by 2025, 35% by 2030, 45% by 2035, and 50% by 2040. In an effort towards meeting the RPS requirements, the Oregon legislature has passed several laws to incentivize development of renewable resources. House Bill 4037 directed the Oregon Business Development Department to establish a utility-scale solar array incentive program for projects between 2 and 10 megawatts.
For example, the Residential Energy Tax Credit program encouraged residents to invest in residential-scale power producing systems such as roof-mounted solar by offering a tax credit that covered a certain percentage of the cost of qualifying equipment. The Business Energy Tax Credit program encouraged businesses to invest in renewable energy by offering a tax credit that covered up to half of the cost of qualifying renewable projects. Additionally, the State Energy Loan Program was created to encourage investment in renewable energy production by offering long-term loans to both organizations and individuals interested in larger scale renewable energy projects like solar farms.
Solar farms sell the energy they produce to utility companies pursuant to a purchase agreement. Individuals and businesses can also sell excess energy produced by their solar panels to utility companies in similar manner. The ability to sell excess generated power has further contributed to the appeal of solar power. Be sure to contact your utility company to inquire about selling excess energy to it before installing your project to ensure compliance with utility regulations. The utility company should be able to guide you through the process, but remember to verify compliance with all applicable laws and rules of your municipality and homeowners association as well. There are different planning requirements, regulations and approvals needed for installing a solar energy system. If you are unaware of these requirements, you need to do your research or consult with an expert because ignorance is not an accepted excuse. Among people to speak with are the local planning authority, building insurer if installing solar panels on a structure, local power company, and the architectural review committee if your property is governed by a homeowners association.