IMG_6091a by sam_churchill, on Flickr

Oregon’s Feed-in-Tariff: Is this the Best Deal in Solar?

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Every state has its own set of incentives for those who install solar energy systems. Here in Oregon, we have a feed-in-tariff system similar to what is offered in Germany, one of the world’s most “solarized” countries. Let’s explore how Oregon’s solar incentive program works so you can figure out if going solar is right for your household or business.

Introducing Oregon’s Solar Incentive Program: How it Works

Oregon’s feed-in-tariff incentive program allows property owners to slowly recoup their solar investments by paying a premium for solar power that you produce. Basically, the electric utility pays owners a set rate for every solar kilowatt-hour (kWh) produced over 15 years.  So if you are a PGE or Pacific Power customer, the utility would pay you a certain amount (39 cents per kWh in the Portland area; 31.1 cents per kWh in most of the rest of the state) for the energy your solar energy system produces.  These rates are 3-4 times what you pay for regular utility power. A second meter will be installed to measure how much your solar system produces.

These are the rates for small systems – those installed for households and small businesses. Medium-sized projects, with 10-100 kW capacities, will earn 23 cents per kWh in the Portland area and 18.1 cents per kWh in the rest of the state. These rates are adjusted every six months, and signing up is a lottery, but once you are awarded a spot  in the program your rates are locked in at that time for the full 15 years of your enrollment. And by the way, if you move, the next homeowner can continue to receive payments for the remainder of the 15-year span, or you can keep sending the money to you.

Who is Eligible for Oregon’s Solar Incentive Program

In order to qualify for the Oregon feed-in-tariff program, you must meet the following criteria:

• You must be a customer of Portland General Electric (PGE), Pacific Power or Idaho Power.
• You must NOT be applying for other Energy Trust of Oregon solar incentives.
• You must NOT be applying for State of Oregon solar tax credits or grants.
• You may not install the solar system yourself. To participate in the Oregon feed-in-tariff program, solar systems must be installed by one of the contractors listed on Energy Trust’s website. (Yes, Imagine Energy is on this list.)
• Your solar system must NOT produce more than 90 percent of your building’s yearly electrical needs. The overall size limit is 500 kW.

How to Apply for Funding through Oregon’s Solar Incentive System

Contact your energy provider to enroll for the state’s solar incentive program. Each of the utilities has its own website for renewable energy options:

• Portland General Electric

• Pacific Power

• Idaho Power

Enrollment is based on a lottery system, and openings often fill quickly. The next pilot application window for PGE is April 1, 2013, at 8 a.m.

One note: Large solar systems (larger than 100kW) will not use this feed-in-tariff system; instead, they will sell all of the solar energy they produce back to the utility.

Now that you understand the basics about Oregon’s solar energy incentive system, all that remains is to contact a solar contractor and get the ball rolling! We would be honored to install your system or provide energy consulting. Oregon residents who dream of converting their homes and businesses into independent energy factories can contact us to learn more about installing a solar energy system.

 

[ Photo by: sam_churchill, on Flickr, via CC License ]