Oregon's residential solar market: steady not stellar
By Gretchen Holzgang
The residential solar market in Oregon is steady but far from thriving.
Some funding programs for residential solar are expected to grow this year.
Third-party ownership, or solar leasing offered by companies such as SolarCity and SunRun, is becoming an increasingly popular option.
The third-party leasing model, introduced in Oregon in 2011, is expected to support steady growth in the residential solar market. “I think more people will be opting for leasing rather than owning in Oregon,” said Clair Carison, executive director of Solar Oregon.
Montgomery also predicts an increase in solar leasing, saying it could account to up to half of all residential solar installations in 2012.
With this model, a third-party owns, installs and operates the system and has a long-term agreement with the homeowner for the cost of purchasing the energy generated by the system — making it more affordable for homeowners to go solar.
In addition to saving on the upfront cost of putting in a solar system, which can cost anywhere between $6,500 to $10,000 for each kilowatt of capacity before incentives, the homeowner can still take advantage of state tax credits for the system.
“We have a lot of people who would like to install solar but don’t have the money for the upfront costs,” said Montgomery.
Community solar projects, sometimes referred to as “Solarize” projects, are expected to be another area of growth. Community solar projects are bulk-purchase programs in which a system is owned by multiple community members.
“Many communities around the state are organizing Solarize group purchase campaigns,” including the Gresham, Oregon City and Lake Oswego communities, said Lee Rahr, solar program specialist for residential projects at the city of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.
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