Though our state has a reputation for clouds and rain, western Oregon actually receives as much solar energy as the national average. During a year’s time, an Oregon solar system will produce as much energy as the same system installed in Florida.
A solar installation for your home generates clean energy, lowers your electric costs over time and adds value to your property. With generous financial incentives, now is an excellent time to explore solar energy. Follow these links to tips and resources on this page for going solar:
Choosing a contractor
Qualified contractors are key to getting the most productive system for your home. Contact a solar-installation expert to determine the feasibility and cost of installing a solar electric or solar water heating system that meets your energy needs and budget.
Energy Trust of Oregon maintains a list of licensed solar contractors and the Oregon Department of Energy maintains a list of tax-credit-certified solar technicians (PDF). Contractors on both lists are trained to meet Energy Trust requirements and complete incentive and tax credit applications. Energy Trust offers tips on selecting a solar contractor and choosing among competing bids (PDF).
If you’re interested in adding solar generation to your home but not in owning a system, you might consider third-party ownership. Under a third-party agreement, a solar company installs, owns and operates a solar electric system on your property. This reduces or eliminates your up-front costs. Instead, you make a regular payment for the solar power. Learn more about third-party ownership.
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Connecting with PGE
PGE makes it easy to go solar with two options:
- Net Metering — This option allows you to offset the cost of the electricity you use from PGE with the energy you generate. If you participate in Net Metering, you are also eligible for Energy Trust incentives and state and federal tax credits.
- Solar Payment Option — With this second option, PGE pays you for the power your system generates up to the total amount of electricity you use. This is an alternative to Net Metering and you are not eligible for Energy Trust incentives and Oregon tax credits. You may still receive federal tax credits.
For either program, PGE must install special meters so you’ll get credited for power you produce. These meters are different than a standard PGE smart meter.
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Sizing your system
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With a solar electric system, energy production is directly proportional to system size. In Portland, a 1-kilowatt solar electric system, optimally oriented with minimal shade, will produce approximately 1,000-kilowatt hours per year. A 3 kW residential system will supply about 3,000 kWh annually or 25 percent of an average Oregon home’s annual electricity needs (an average four-person household uses 12,000 kWh/year).
Orientation and shading
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Solar financial incentives for homeowners
Rooftop installations require a southern exposure for maximum output, although east or west orientation may be suitable. For best performance, there should be little or no shading year-round. Even partial shading on one portion of a panel can seriously degrade the panel’s output. An evaluation tool, such as the Oregon Department of Energy’s sun chart worksheet (PDF), can estimate the impact of shading and panel orientation on the annual performance. Typically, your solar contractor will perform a site analysis.
When figuring project costs, consider the financial incentives:
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- Energy Trust: Net Metering customers can claim an Energy Trust financial incentive of $0.75/watt, up to a maximum of $5,000.
- State tax credit: The Oregon Department of Energy offers a state solar tax credit of $3/watt, up to a maximum of $6,000, for Net Metering customers. A maximum of $1,500 can be claimed per year.
- Federal tax credit: A federal solar tax credit is available for 30 percent of the installed cost, after the Energy Trust incentive. Both Net Metering and Solar Payment Option customers are eligible for the federal solar tax credit.
- Financing: GreenStreet Lending through Umpqua Bank is a financing option for helping you go solar, especially if you don’t have a home equity line of credit. According to Energy Trust, GreenStreet Lending products offer low-interest rate financing, have no origination fees or closing costs and have flexible terms when you work with an Energy Trust solar trade ally contractor.