Dear Lane Electric Community:
We’ve been spreading the word about starting a community solar garden for Lane Electric members and the calls are coming in to reserve a share of the solar energy output. A community solar garden is a photovoltaic solar array that a utility builds and invites others to participate in the benefits and costs. This month I’ll share with you how we arrived at this point in time—poised to build you a community solar garden.
Electric co-ops around the country have been building community solar gardens for their members. The reasons vary: A worry-free alternative to a rooftop system – no roof replacement issues, no maintenance hassles. An opportunity to participate in solar technology at your pace – buy as little or as much solar output as you want. Making a personal value statement about local, renewable energy.
At Lane Electric, we saw the growing national interest in community solar gardens and we were curious. How could a community solar garden work for our members who might be interested for these same reasons? We researched other co-ops’ efforts. We invited a guest speaker to a board meeting to hear how co-ops are penciling out a community solar garden. And having done our homework, we started putting the pieces together for ourselves.
Since the start of this year, staff has been hard at work identifying funding resources and figuring out the right size for our community solar garden. Lane Electric had seed money set aside through our “Member Choice” green power program that supports renewable energy projects. Also, we had partnered with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) in the past to bring solar technology to Oakridge, and this time BEF provided a $25,000 grant and expertise to get us started on a community solar garden. Finally, hosting the solar garden at Lane Electric’s world headquarters on the corner of W. 7th & Bailey Hill Road in Eugene allowed us to leverage almost $11,000 from EWEB for a 25-kilowatt community solar garden. Taken together, over half of the community solar garden could be paid for up front!
And this is where you—our members—come in. Your participation will make this community solar garden take root and thrive! By the time this edition of Ruralite reaches you, your Board of Directors will have decided whether the time is right to build a community solar garden. If so, we’ll have the participation price set and you can then decide what reason makes the most sense for you to join our solar gardening group.
You’ll be able to monitor the solar garden’s output online and over time to see the kilowatt-hours grow and grow. You’ll learn more about solar energy by seeing your garden output change with local weather patterns. You’ll be a part of a rural community effort to increase renewable energy in Lane County.
Lane Electric is your trusted resource for renewable energy. We’re always looking for ways to bring added value to you, our members, through the collaborative power of the co-op way of living.