The use of solar power has increased dramatically over the last decade throughout the United States and Oregon in particular. The newly released solar dashboard by the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) illustrates the steady growth of solar-generated electricity in the state since 1986, encompassing both utility-scale and rooftop solar installations. It offers insights into the counties in Oregon actively engaged in solar production, the surge in residential solar system capacities, and the average cost per watt.
“Solar has really taken off in Oregon, and one of the main stories that has driven that adoption of solar is the cost reduction,” ODOE senior policy analyst Rob Del Mar said. A significant reduction in cost is making solar power widely available, from small residential rooftop solar systems to large solar farms.
Insights from the ODOE Solar Energy Dashboard
There are now more than 49,000 solar installations across Oregon. Let’s examine the various solar energy markets.
Residential Solar Energy Installations in Oregon
Whereas utility-scale solar projects are largely concentrated in several counties across Oregon, residential solar installations span the entire state. However, home solar systems are largely concentrated in certain urban areas, most notably Portland, Salem, Corvallis, Eugene/Springfield, Bend, Medford, and Ashland, Oregon.
Some of the leading counties for residential solar panel installations in Oregon are:
Multnomah County: Home to Portland, Multnomah County had a significant number of residential solar installations due to the city’s commitment to sustainability and renewable energy initiatives.
For example, the City of Portland is trying to streamline the solar permitting process by creating an online portal and making access to information easier for solar installation companies. The city offers free appointments for permitting, zoning, and code questions.
Washington County: Adjacent to Multnomah County and also part of the Portland metropolitan area, Washington County had a considerable number of home solar systems in Beaverton, Tigard, Hillsboro, and beyond. In Hillsboro, the city doesn’t charge solar permitting fees to help encourage solar energy installations.
Clackamas County: Another county in the Portland metropolitan area, Clackamas County, has a notable number of residential solar installations in Oregon City, West Linn, and elsewhere. Like Multnomah and Washington counties, it benefits from the emphasis on sustainability in the region and policies supporting solar power development.
Lane County: Home to Eugene, Lane County had a growing number of residential solar installations. The city of Eugene and its surrounding areas have been supportive of renewable energy initiatives, contributing to the adoption of solar power among residents.
Jackson County: Located in Southern Oregon, Jackson County had a fair share of residential solar installations, likely due to its favorable climate for solar energy production and the increasing interest in renewable energy sources among residents.
Commercial & Institutional Solar Systems In Oregon
Beyond residential installations, Oregon has a lot of organizations and companies installing solar panels, both on rooftops and off-site solar farms. There are numerous noteworthy solar panel installations in Oregon, including:
Apple signed a power purchase agreement for 56 MW of solar energy from an array near its data center in Prineville, Oregon, in 2017. In addition, Apple also sources renewable energy from Montague Wind Power Project in Gilliam County. These clean energy projects in Oregon contribute to Apple’s goal of using 100% renewable energy to power its operations.
SolarWorld Americas Manufacturing Facility
SolarWorld Americas was a solar panel manufacturer located in Hillsboro, Oregon, that had its own substantial solar installation at its manufacturing facility. However, SolarWorld faced financial challenges, sold to the solar company SunPower, and then the company announced in 2021 that it would close the 47-acre Hillsboro solar panel manufacturing plant.
Oregon Tech’s Klamath Falls campus has numerous solar installations throughout the campus, which serve as an educational tool for students studying renewable energy and sustainable technologies. These solar systems also help significantly reduce the carbon emissions from the Oregon Tech campus, while dramatically reducing energy costs.
One of the busiest airports in the Pacific Northwest, PDX takes sustainability to the next level by creating “a natural and sustainable oasis for travelers.” The Portland airport features 292 solar panels to help power airport operations as part of its sustainability efforts. There is a monitoring platform that users can use to view solar system output information at PDX.
The Medford airport also features a solar energy system, with three solar canopies over walkways and a ground-mounted solar array in the parking lot. This is part of a multiphase project to reduce carbon emissions and energy costs for the airport.
Oregon Convention Center: The Oregon Convention Center in Portland installed a significant solar panel array on its rooftop, which generates enough solar energy to power 166 average homes. This solar installation was part of the convention center’s sustainability efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuel energy sources.
The Hood River County School District implemented a notable solar project across two of its schools, Hood River Middle School and May Street Elementary. This initiative aimed to reduce energy costs for the district while also serving as an educational tool for students to learn about renewable energy and sustainability.
Utility-scale Solar Projects in Oregon
The counties with the most solar energy production in Oregon from large solar farms through 2022 are:
- Clackamas County
- Malheur County
- Klamath County
- Lake County
Numerous solar farms have been installed, primarily in Central Oregon, that power hundreds of thousands of homes. The electricity produced is typically fed into the regional power grid. It becomes part of the overall energy mix distributed by the utilities to residential, commercial, industrial, and governmental customers across the service areas.
The power generated from these solar projects contributes to meeting the energy needs of various utility customers, supporting Oregon’s renewable energy goals and reducing reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
Some utility companies and entities involved in utility-scale solar projects in Oregon include:
- Portland General Electric (PGE): PGE, one of Oregon’s largest electric utilities, has been actively involved in renewable energy initiatives, including utility-scale solar projects. PGE has partnerships and agreements with solar developers to buy solar power from utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) installations.
- Pacific Power: Pacific Power, another major electric utility in Oregon, has shown interest in increasing its renewable energy portfolio, including investments in utility-scale solar projects. They procure power generated from these solar installations to supply electricity to their customers.
- Idaho Power: While primarily serving customers in Idaho, Idaho Power also operates in parts of eastern Oregon. The company has been involved in renewable energy projects, including utility-scale solar farms that contribute to their energy generation mix.
Why are many homeowners installing solar systems in Oregon?
Residential solar power has become extremely popular in numerous Oregon communities for several reasons.
Oregon homeowners can qualify for up to $5,000 in solar rebates through the Oregon Department of Energy. Plus, there is a federal solar tax credit that reduces the cost of a solar panel system by up to 30%. These incentives can significantly reduce the upfront costs of installing solar panels, making them more financially appealing to homeowners.
Affordable Solar System Prices
Over time, the cost of solar panel installation has decreased significantly, making it more affordable for many homeowners in Oregon. Advances in technology and increased competition among solar providers have contributed to this affordability.
To find out how much it would cost to install solar panels on your Oregon or Washington home, contact Smart Solar Energy. This solar company offers an industry-leading 25-year warranty and uses some of the best solar panels available.
Net Metering Policies
Net metering policies in Oregon allow homeowners with solar panels to sell excess energy back to the grid. This encourages homeowners in Western Oregon to invest in solar systems, since they can offset their energy bills by generating surplus electricity.
While Western Oregon is known for its cloudy and rainy weather, it still receives a reasonable amount of sunlight throughout the year. Solar panels can generate electricity even on overcast days, making them a viable option for homeowners.
Western Oregon has a reputation for environmental consciousness. Many residents in this region prioritize sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. Installing residential solar panels aligns with these values by utilizing clean, renewable energy sources.
Why are there a lot of utility-scale solar farms in Central Oregon?
Central Oregon has a lot of sunshine throughout the year. The region’s climate and weather patterns often include long sunny days, which are ideal conditions for solar power production.
Central Oregon has vast open spaces with relatively low population density. This availability of open land makes it easier and more cost-effective to set up large solar farms, which require significant space for installation. By contrast, urban areas, such as Portland and Salem, have little open space.
Land costs in Central Oregon are often more affordable compared to more densely populated areas in the Willamette Valley. This factor encourages the development of utility-scale solar farms, allowing for larger installations without high land acquisition or leasing costs.
The State of Oregon is actively seeking ways to increase solar energy production and cut carbon emissions. Incentives, grants, and favorable regulations encourage solar developers to invest in utility-scale solar projects in Oregon.
What are the disadvantages of solar energy development in Oregon?
Solar energy in Oregon, while advantageous, does have several challenges. Oregon experiences seasonal variations, resulting in shorter daylight hours and diminished solar irradiance during winter months, affecting overall energy generation.
The initial costs associated with installing solar panels pose a significant hurdle for some households, despite available incentives and financing options. However, the cost of solar has fallen 42% in the last ten years.
Moreover, utility-scale solar farms require substantial space, which can hinder land use for other purposes. In particular, there is concern about large solar farms being installed on prime agricultural land, limiting space for cultivating food. For example, the proposed solar farm at Muddy Creek Energy Park in Linn County has some opposition because of the use of prime farmland.
For this reason, installing solar panels on rooftops is an excellent solution for residential and smaller-scale commercial solar installations. Rooftop solar projects help conserve open spaces while also making good use of existing infrastructure.
If you are interested in installing a home solar system, contact Smart Solar Energy. We can customize a solar panel system for your home that can virtually eliminate your power bill.
What percentage of electricity in Oregon is generated by solar power?
Despite considerable growth in solar energy, a mere 3.9% of the total electricity is generated by solar power. However, this percentage is increasing rapidly and there is now enough installed solar energy capacity in Oregon to power 210,533 homes.
How does Oregon compare to other states for solar energy use?
Although the solar energy market in Oregon has grown significantly in recent years, Oregon is not one of the top states for solar energy production, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. In 2023, Oregon’s national solar ranking is 21st, up from 23rd in 2022, with 1,715 megawatts of installed solar energy capacity.
The solar energy industry is also an economic driver in the state, and there are more than 4,000 people employed in the solar energy industry in Oregon.
Solar Energy Has a Bright Future in the Pacific Northwest
Although Oregon has experienced exceptional solar energy growth, Washington has as well. In fact, 2022 was a record-breaking year for solar energy installations in the state. Solar energy is growing rapidly throughout the Pacific Northwest due to falling costs, supportive government policies, and solar energy incentives for Oregonians. Many households in Portland, Salem, Eugene, and beyond are using free solar energy to power their homes.
Want to learn more about how much you can save by installing solar panels? Request a free quote today from the Smart Solar Energy team!