Portland getting solarized

Portland getting solarized

Oregon Caucus report
Jeff Hammarlund, caucus chair

%CODE1%Last session, the Oregon legislature approved a 25-megawatt solar generation feed-in tariff. It was made open on July 1 and was completely subscribed within 15 minutes, with huge waiting lists for Portland General Electric, Pacific Power and Idaho Power.

In addition, several companies, such as SolarCity in California, have been working with the Energy Trust of Oregon and the city of Portland to solarize the city. The project goes from neighborhood to neighborhood, with hundreds of customers signing up for installation of photovoltaic cells. So Portland is experiencing a huge penetration of solar power at very reasonable costs thanks to economies of scale.

Portland has hosted three smart grid conferences in the past month. Caucus members have been trying to strengthen the connections the energy community has with the urban planning and urban design communities. They’ve been looking at how the smart grid can be integrated into a much broader ecosystem context that includes water conservation, transportation issues, air quality, etc. Under consideration is integrating the smart grid in four eco-districts in Portland as pilot tests. The city of Austin, Texas, has been brought in because Austin has become the nation’s leader in implementing the smart grid into the broader sustainability framework – the Pecan Street Project. PGE recently beat Austin Energy in number of customers in their clean energy programs. They’re usually Nos. 1 and 2.

PGE’s proposal for closing its Boardman coal plant in 2020 got the cold shoulder from Oregon’ Department of Environmental Quality, which was concerned that PGE wasn’t going to install scrubbers for sulfur dioxide in the interim. DEQ proposed three alternatives, the most expensive being installation of $320 million in pollution controls and closing in 2020. (Others involve earlier closing and reduced pollution-control expenditures.) Public comment ended July 18. Oregon’s Public Utility Commission will hold another public hearing on PGE’s resources plan on Aug. 16, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Port of Morrow Riverfront Center in Boardman. (Click here for more on Boardman and Northwest coal issues)