Power to the People

Community effort in Southeast Portland brings solar within reach for many.

PORTLAND, Ore. — September 16, 2009 was the deadline for Portland homeowners to become part of the very first Solarize Portland project — a grassroots effort that’s making it easier to go solar for less through the power of community. What began as the idea of one homeowner in Southeast Portland, has now grown to include 335 neighbors. The number is well over the original project goal of 50 participants.

Led by Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Coalition and Energy Trust of Oregon, the group is going through the process together — from learning how solar works, to installing systems on their roofs. Because of their bulk buying power, they will save 25 percent off their purchase price. This is in addition to current state and federal tax credits and Energy Trust cash incentives that have cut costs for many Oregonians going solar by 80 percent this year.

After the math is done, it is possible for a Solarize Portland participant to pay less than $400 instead of thousands for a two-kilowatt system, and only a few thousand dollars for a larger system.

GreenStreet Lending, a low-cost loan program from Umpqua Bank (an Equal Housing Lender) and Energy Trust, is offering solar financing options for participants.

“The response to Solarize Portland has been truly phenomenal,” said Lizzie Rubado, residential solar project manager, Energy Trust. “It’s easy and accessible, and empowers people to make solar a reality for their own home.”

Energy Trust is working together with Southeast Uplift to help bring the project from concept to reality.

“It’s been great to see the community coming together this way, with neighbors meeting one another over an amazing project like this,” said Tim O’Neal, sustainability coordinator, Southeast Uplift.

Throughout the summer, volunteers spread the word and encouraged their community to get involved. Workshops held at local community centers, churches and pubs helped homeowners find out about going solar and how they could get involved in the project. As neighbors signed up, a competitive bid process helped locate the solar contractor to handle all the installations.

Imagine Energy, a Portland-based energy consulting and contracting company and Energy Trust trade ally, was selected and will begin installations this week. Installations will go at a steady clip, with three teams working to install a total of 12 systems a week. The project is expected to wrap up by the end of the year.

While the project concept is new to the Portland area, a similar effort in San Francisco is responsible for more than 25 percent of all home solar installations in the city.

“There has never been a better time to go solar,” explained Rubado. “Tax credits and incentives, when paired with creative approaches like Solarize Portland, are making solar a possibility for Oregonians who want to control their energy costs and reduce the effects of global warming.”

Homeowners can find information about going solar, including available incentives and tax credits, free educational events and a list of local, qualified contractors through Energy Trust at www.energytrust.org.

For more information about Solarize Portland and to sign up for the next project, visit www.solarizeportland.org.

Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Coalition assists the citizens and neighborhood associations of Southeast Portland to create communities that are livable, socially diverse, safe and vital. Southeast Uplift provides an organizational structure and forum to empower citizens to effectively resolve issues of livability and community development.

Energy Trust of Oregon is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Oregonians benefit from saving energy and tapping renewable resources. Our services, cash incentives and solutions have helped customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas save more than $440 million in energy costs. Our work keeps energy costs as low as possible and builds a sustainable energy future for Oregon. Learn more at www.energytrust.org or call 1-866-368-7878.

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