Solar Oregon: 10x more energy in 10 years

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SALEM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Ten times more solar energy in Oregon in the next 10 years — that’s what a group of pro-solar lobbyists are working towards with the help of a series of new bills.

But not everyone in Salem is ready to green-light these green energy incentives.

A statewide coalition of pro-solar businesses and government leaders are asking lawmakers to approve a series of bills aimed at increasing the amount of solar energy generated in Oregon.

“Does solar actually work in the Northwest? I hear that all the time,” Charlie Fisher with Environment Oregon said Tuesday. “Low and behold, we actually get about 75% of the sun energy that Los Angeles gets.”

In Hillsboro, the largest solar panel manufacturing operation is underway at Solarworld. Yet, pro-solar groups told KOIN 6 News less than 1% of energy generated in Oregon comes from the sun, and it’s not from a lack of sunny days.

There is now a push from a group called Environment Oregon to urge state lawmakers to approve several pro-solar bills this session. One bill would extend tax credits for homeowners who are installing solar panels. Another would provide state money to encourage companies to invest in large-scale energy projects.

Some companies that already use solar energy said it pays off. The owner of a local car repair shop who installed rooftop solar panels seven years ago explained how it helped keep him from laying off workers during the recession.

“By the last months of 2008, many of our customers no longer had the funds to maintain or repair their cars, and we were in fear that we would have to lay off staff,” Jim Houser, owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic said. “We were scouring our expenses in an effort to cut every cost we could. Fortunately, our photovoltaic array cut our electric bill by 35%.”

In Salem, however, some lawmakers said they want more research on solar incentives and tax credits to ensure that Oregon taxpayers will benefit.

But the solar business isn’t always filled with sunshine — several companies that set up shop in Oregon went under or relocated to other states, or even overseas. Some lawmakers said it’s time to get tougher with requiring more of a commitment in exchange for money from the state or tax breaks.

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