Portland, OR- As Oregon continues to debate policies critical to the growth of solar power, a new report released today shows that Portland ranks 17 for total solar PV installed (MW-DC), putting it in the top 20 cities in the nation for solar power.
The report comes as our state legislators continue to debate the renewal of a critical statewide solar incentive - the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC) - in the current state legislative session.
“By using solar power here in Portland, we can reduce pollution and improve public health for everyday Oregonians,” said Carlina Arango with Environment Oregon. “To realize these benefits, city and state leaders should continue to embrace a big vision for solar on rooftops throughout the city and throughout the state.”
The report, Shining Cities: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America, ranks Portland, OR ahead of cities like Washington, DC, Jacksonville, FL and Newark NJ for amount of installed solar. Portland has stepped up one spot up from its last year’s ranking at 18th place. Portland’s ability to keep pace with the other cities in the report is largely connected to the state’s pro-solar policies that have made solar cheaper and easier to install.
“We’re proud to be on the list of U.S. cities that are open for solar business,” said Mayor Ted Wheeler. “One hundred percent of the electricity we use for City operations is powered from renewable sources, including solar - and we continue to install solar on our own facilities to the greatest extent possible. It’s important to Portland’s future that the State of Oregon continue its forward-thinking policies and market-moving incentives.”
The figures in the report reflect the recent growth of solar across the country. The top 20 cities listed in the report have nearly as much solar today as the entire country had installed in 2010. In 2016, solar was the number one new source of energy installed in America.
The Solar Foundation just released new data showing there are 4,509 people employed in solar in Oregon, 50 percent increase from 2015.
Despite that growth, challenges remain for the solar industry in Oregon. Without legislative action, the Residential Energy Tax Credit (RETC), a well-run, popular program with a long history in our state to incentivize Oregonian homeowners to install solar energy systems for their homes, mainly rooftop solar, will expire by the end of this year. Organizations, such as Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association (OSEIA) and Elemental Energy, have described how, if this solar incentive expires, the solar industry could experience a substantial downturn.
“While most Oregonians support solar for environmental reasons, the economics ultimately decide who can afford to go solar. The RETC makes solar a financially sound investment,” said Terry Tomei with Elemental Energy.
At the city level, cities can push solar forward in a number of ways, according to the report. Among the recommendations, cities can set a goal for solar usage, help residents finance solar power and put solar on government buildings.
The report also shows that while Portland is a solar leader, it currently uses less than 2 percent of its solar potential, according to data from the US Department of Energy.
“Cities are big energy users with lots of unutilized roof space suitable for solar panels,” said Carlina Arango from Environment Oregon. “Portland can continue leading the way and protect our environment by advocating for pro-solar policies, at the city and state level, and using as much of our solar potential as possible.”
Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center is a statewide environmental organization dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces.