Sunday, July 12, 2009

Oregon's Solar Climate

In Renewable Energy Curriculum, Energication began to set the scene on renewable energy, first focusing on the federal government. At the risk of getting too off-topic, it is astounding just how much of a difference a fresh perspective from a new administration can make. Not a political commentary, just a voice of relief that the early momentum being made in a lot of areas now has support in Washington, D.C.

Next in this series is a look at what's taking place in Oregon. True, this is where our efforts began, so it makes sense to weight the material more heavily to Oregon. However, it is recognized that the principles and strategies evaluated here can have application in every state, of course with local lenses and influences applied. I'm pleased to announce we've had our first "out of state" visitor, with one hit to the blog originating in Illinois. Welcome!

Now, back to taking a look at the current state in our state.

One could argue that in Oregon, "The Sky's the Limit!" With the help of Governor Ted Kulongoski (remember the governmental "perspectives" observation above), Oregon intends to become a renewable energy leader, with solar playing a major role. The hard work is paying off, with the state making strides to accomplish that title.

The State of Oregon's attitude and actions has been successful in luring a number of solar manufacturers and related installation and equipments companies to the state. Companies like:
Chris Robertson, vice president of public affairs for Peak Sun Silicon, a start-up that plans to invest $700 million over the next five years in a Millersburg plant making electronic-grade silicon for the solar industry says, "The state of Oregon is going to be the center for solar manufacturing in the U.S."

The United States is the fourth-leading nation in annual installation of photovoltaic systems, behind Germany, Spain and Japan. But the U.S. market has been growing by about 40 percent over the past six years, providing the potential to be the world's largest photovoltaic market in the next few years.

Energication plans to help our students become a part of that future.

But why Oregon? Gray, drab, rainy, Oregon? Back to the Oregon Solar Electric Guide that started this post.

According to the guide, the Willamette Valley is on a par with the U.S. average for solar generation capability. Makes sense. Being astride the 45th Parallel, we're half-way between the Equator and the North Pole. That's about average. But it gets better.

In Eastern and Southern Oregon, that capacity is 20-30% higher, more aligned with the likes of Florida. A decent ante to play.

In 1999, House Bill 3219 was passed that established Oregon as a “Net Metering” state. As one of 42 states and the District of Columbia, Net Metering allows the meter to "run backwards." How? When qualified electrical generation systems that are tied to the grid generate more electricity than they consume, the meter runs in the reverse direction. Throughout the billing cycle, the "net" of usage and generation becomes the monthly bill. Just one incentive for small scale generation projects.

A perfect example of a State putting their taxpayers "money where their mouths are" is the Oregon Department of Transportation's "Solar Highway." Completed in December of 2008, this 104 kilowatt photovoltaic solar array at the confluence of Interstates 5 and 205 south of Portland, provides approximately 33% of the required power for areas lights at the interchange. It is the country's first.

The longer term vision is to completely build out enough solar to fully support the State's transportation system of signals, illumination, buildings, ramp metering, etc. "Longer" is the key word here since that is estimated to require 47,000 MEGAWATTS - a far cry from about 100 kilowatts.

Is that bad? Not at all.

The fact that the State of Oregon has a very long term view of its need for, and application of, solar technology, I see our students (at all ages) poised to benefit immediately, comprehensively, and LOCALLY, from the work we do to foster renewable energy curriculum in our schools.

This is just a small sample of what's going on in the state. What else have you seen that has positive implications for our students?


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