Getting Solar Energy in Oregon

There are a lot of reasons to think about making solar energy improvements to your home. It’s true that solar energy is better for the environment than other types of energy, but it’s also true that solar energy benefits you. The government (both local and national) has tried to make it easier for you to reap the benefits of solar energy in your home.

The Solar Sprint

Solar energy systems cost far less than they have in the past. Just a few years ago, you might have been looking at about $15,000 to install a system for your home (for a system that provides 20 to 30% of your home’s electricity needs). Now, you can get the same system for about $5,000.

Why the huge price drop? It’s largely because of federal tax credit for residential solar systems, which offsets 30% of the cost of purchase and installation. This program ends at the end of 2016. Solar Oregon, an organization dedicated to a cleaner environmental future in Oregon, launched a campaign called Solar Spring to encourage as many Oregonians as possible to go solar before the tax credit expires.

If you’re in Portland, the City of Portland has been working hard to reduce the costs of going solar. It has streamlined permits and planning and zoning processes, which makes solar energy easier to get and install. With all the concern about Portland’s air quality, making it easier for people to get solar energy is really important.

Solar Energy’s Benefits For You

So, what benefits would you see from solar energy? First, there are the obvious financial benefits. Look at how long will it be before the system saves you enough money to pay for itself. According to Solar Oregon, you can expect to generate about 1,000 kWh of electricity for every 1kW of an installed solar system. An 4kW average system generates about 4,000 kWh of electricity in one year. In a scenario like this, you will have paid for your solar energy improvements in just over six years. Not bad! After that, the savings go straight to your pocket.

Here are some other benefits from installing a solar energy system in your home:

  • Solar homes tend to sell about twice as fast as conventional homes
  • Homes with solar energy reduce their energy bills between 14% and 54%
  • Solar systems add to a home’s value and also retain that value very well. Even after 30 years, panels provide 80% of their original output.
  • Solar panels protect you somewhat from rising energy costs

Benefits to the Environment

Natural gas (and many other energy producers) are carbon-producing fossil fuels. Solar, wind, nuclear, and hydro energy are not. Carbon-producing fossil fuels are also non-renewable resources. Because solar energy comes from the sun, it’s both carbon-free and renewable. This means that it has less of a negative impact on the environment than other energy sources do.

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Kinds of Solar Technology

There are four kinds of solar technology, and two (solar electric and solar hot water) are in common use in homes.

Solar Electric or Photovoltaics (PV): converts light directly to energy

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP): uses heat from the sun (or thermal energy) to run electric turbines

Passive Solar: utilizes a building’s site and materials to use the sun’s energy to heat or cool

Solar Hot Water: uses the sun’s thermal energy to heat water

Solar Electric

A basic home solar system has PV cells that are connected and packed into panels. They are fastened side by side on a rack system that is connected to a home’s roof. When the sunlight hits these cells, semiconductor material bumps electrons off in a continuous stream, which flows to an inverter. Most residential systems are connected to an energy grid, which is where surplus energy is banked for later use.

Go here for a more detailed explanation of how solar electric systems work in a home.

Here’s what makes your home a great candidate for solar energy panel installation:

Direction: The sun always shines from the south in the northern hemisphere, so solar energy systems on a south-facing roof receive the most sun. Southeast- and southwest-facing roofs still receive a lot of sun. East- and west-facing roofs may receive enough sunlight, but north-facing roofs will not.

-Space for your panels: Panels should have direct access to the sun, with little to no shade for most of the day. This also means no buildings and no trees that provide shade for your roof.

-The angle of your roof: In Oregon, the ideal pitch for a roof is between 20 and 35 inches.

See more detailed information here.

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Solar Water Heaters

The sun creates thermal energy, which is then used to preheat the water in your tank. With thermal energy, you won’t need as much gas or electricity to heat up your hot water. People in Oregon spend 20 to 30 percent of their utility money just on heating water. A solar hot water system will reduce that by at least 50 percent.

All solar water systems are off grid; the energy is stored and used locally. This means that your solar water system has to match what you use. In an overcast climate like Oregon’s, solar water heating systems are sized to match your demand during the summer months, when skies are clearer. Water heating systems are more tolerant of shade than solar electric systems are. For information about how solar water heating systems work, go here.

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Solar Energy in Oregon

I hope this blog post has helped you understand some of the benefits to you from getting a solar electric or solar water system installed in your home. And at least through 2016, you’ll enjoy rock-bottom purchase and installation costs, making your effort pay off that much faster.

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