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Rebate can help harness sun’s power; Tax credits offered for solar energy systems
By Lee Juillerat, Herald and News 10/4/07

For people wanting to reduce their energy bills, the sky’s the limit.
            Bob Rogers, of Oregon Institute of Technology’s Renewable Energy Center, says new legislation means Oregon residents a nd businesses can install solar and other renewable energy systems that can be paid off in two to five years. Rebates are offered through federal and Oregon tax credits and through Pacific Power’s Energy Trust program.
   “The incentive is to move these programs forward,” Rogers said. “The state is bending over backwards.”
   Earlier this year, Gov. Ted Kulongosk i signed a bill that provides increased ta  incentives to business and homeowners who install renewable energy systems. The changes increase state credits from 35 to 50 percent for businesses and provide higher tax credits and other benefits for homeowners.
   Based on models, Rogers said the actual cost to homeowners installing an $8,500 one-kilowatt solar electricity or $6,500 solar hot water system will be $1,300 to $1,500. When reduced energy bills are calculated, those costs can be paid off in two to four years, or sooner.
   “If you’re going to live in a house for five years and you can get the costs back in a couple of years, it would be silly not to,” Rogers said.
   Although Klamath and Lake are among Oregon counties best suited for solar energy and ground source heat pumps, most people taking advantage of the programs are from the Willamette Valley, possibly because they are better informed, Rogers said.
   Not ‘a give-away’
   The benefits are especially helpful to people in the Klamath Falls area because of Energy Trust incentives available through Pacific Power. A percentage of each Pacific Power bill helps fund the Energy Trust rebates.
   “We have paid this money,” Rogers said, emphasizing the benefits are not a “government give-away.”
   Most of Lake County gets power from Surprise Valley Electrification and Midstate Electric, which are not part of the Energy Trust program, but are eligible for Oregon state and federal incentives.
   Rogers said the increased state tax credits and the increased reliability of renewable energy systems makes the use of non-traditional energy more economically feasible than in the past. Along with homeowners, the programs also benefit businesses and should help ranchers and farmers, he said, especially those in the Klamath Basin facing steeply increasing power costs for irrigation systems.
   A Malin farmer is planning a solar electrical, or photovoltaic, irrigation system. Harold Hartman, who received a $30,000 Blue Sky block grant through Pacific Power, hopes the system will be active late this year. Pacific Power will buy the project’s business energy tax credits.
   In addition, a permanent renewable energy exhibit will be created at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Lakeview. Various energy systems — solar photovoltaic, solar hot water heating, ground source heat pumps, wind, biodiesel from canola, ethanol from corn, and geothermal — will be set up with monitoring systems “so people, schools and community groups can come out and see how they work.” The project is being funded from a $25,000 Blue Sky block grant from Pacific Power.
   Rogers said the exhibit will benefit the fairgrounds main exhibition hall building by cutting energy costs to a third of the present power charges.
   “Up until a few months ago this may not have made a lot of sense,” Rogers said. “But it does now.”

   H&N photo by Lee Juillerat
Rod Kucera examines the passive solar heating system at his brewery that helps heat 120 gallons of water used to brew beer. His system will be included as part of a Solar Tour Saturday.
Farmer plans solar demonstration project

   MALIN — Harold Hartman has worked the past two years to start up an irrigation solar demonstration project on his 40-acre farm. He is struggling to get the project in place later this year.
   Tentative plans call for generating about 30 kilowatt-hours a year from an array of 80 solar panels mounted on a pole. The panels will use a dual tracking system to collect solar energy. Energy from the system won’t be used to power the 40-horsepower pump for his irrigation system, but will be used to offset costs of operating the pump. Pacific Power, which is providing a $30,000 Blue Sky grant to help fund the project, will buy business energy tax credits. The net metering system will go in reverse when the system produces more solar energy than it uses.
   “If you’re able to produce as much as you use, the cost is zero,” Hartman said, noting there are installation and other costs. With Oregon irrigators facing ongoing power rate increases — a maximum of 50 percent a year for seven years — the project is intended to show way farmers and ranchers can deal with those rate hikes.
   “The unknown,” Hartman said, “ is what do you believe is going to happen to power rates in coming year.”
   Information on installation, insurances, incentives and other material related to the system will be available at a future open house. Monitoring meters will show how much power is produced and is used, along with other data.
   “This is a demonstration of what’s potentially available, but in anyone’s particular system it may be different,” Hartman said.
   — By Lee Juillerat

Solar Tour Planned

An annual Solar Tour Saturday by the Klamath Solar Association will visit two Klamath Basin homes and a business that uses solar energy.
   The tour will begin at 9 a.m. at the Klamath County Government Center, 305 Main St., with participants driving to three locations.
   The tour is sponsored by the Klamath Solar Association, which meets 6 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month at the Klamath County Courthouse meeting room. For information on the group andor tour call 882-9923. The trip is expected to last until about mid-afternoon.

How the renewable energy rebates work

How does the new renewable energy rebate program work?
   Bob Rogers of the Oregon Institute of Technology Renewable Energy Center says the best strategy is not to exceed available state and federal tax credits. He called a 1-kilowatt system, which produces 100 watts of power, “is the best buy for your buck.”
   Here are some examples:
   Klamath Falls area homeowners installing a residential solar photovoltaic, or electrical, system would contract with a certified installer, normally an electrical company. For a system costing $8,500, Pacific Power users would receive an Energy Trust incentive of $2 per watt, or $2,000, making the amount paid to the contractor $6,500. The maximum federal tax credit is $2,000 while the state tax credit, which can be extended over several years, is $3,000. The combined value of the credits and rebate is $7,000, making the final net cost $1,500. The installed solar system would produce $350 worth of electricity a year, so, in four years, the savings at current power rates would be about $1,400.
   “This is really a worst case scenario,” Rogers said, noting he purposely projects power savings conservatively.
   The savings, he believes, may be more significant for people installing residential solar water heating. A system with a total installed cost of $6,500 would receive a $720 Energy Trust incentive, dropping the cost paid to the contractor to $5,780. The state tax credit would be $1,440 and the federal tax credit $2,000, making an out-of-pocket cost of $2,340. The savings, depending on family size, would be about $400 to $500 a year, meaning the cost could be recouped in two to three years.
   After the systems have paid for themselves, homeowners would, in essence, r e c e iv e “ f r e e p o we r.” A lthough some energ y systems installed in the 1970s, when tax incentives were also available, were “scams,” Rogers said better long-term warranties and certification standards have reduced scam concerns.
   More information for renewable energy for businesses, including farmers and ranchers, and homeowners is available by contacting Rogers by email at robert.rogers@oit.edu, by calling him at his Lakeview office at (541) 947-6035, or contacting Tom Chester, OIT Renewable Energy Center director, at 885-1883.
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