Three days after Christmas 2015, Lane Electric Cooperative flipped the switch on the first community solar project in Oregon.
“We have a number of members who like the idea of solar but aren’t able to locate an array on their property due to trees, buildings, topography, and the like,” says Chris Seubert, board president of the Eugene-based co-op. “Now, through the solar garden at our headquarters, our members can take advantage of the sun’s rays remotely. It’s kind of like country living on city water.”
The 27.5-kW array comprises 84 panels on the outskirts of Eugene.
Subscriptions cost $600 for the output from half a panel and $1,200 from a full. Lane Electric members have the option of spreading this cost over 12 monthly electric bills. They get a credit between $3 and $5 per month depending on actual solar output.
Manager of Member Services Dave D’Avanzo expects to have subscriber agreements in hand for all 84 panels this spring. “Then we’ll begin thinking about a phase-two project,” he says
A local solar contractor built the array, and total costs came in just under $150,000. The board was adamant that the project not be subsidized by the entire co-op membership. So the staff’s solar team looked hard for incentives and rebates and ultimately received $12,215 from the Eugene Water & Electric Board and $25,000 from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. Subscriptions and Lane Electric’s MemberChoice green power program covered the remainder.
Solar power isn’t new to the co-op. It has offered rebates on rooftop solar since the mid-1990s and, in 2012, signed a 15-year contract to purchase the output of a 1-MW project built by King Estate Winery.