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Solar Energy Trend Won't be Eclipsed Monday

Battery technology allows people to store solar energy in the event of a blackout  or a solar eclipse. (Support PDX/Flickr)
Battery technology allows people to store solar energy in the event of a blackout or a solar eclipse. (Support PDX/Flickr)
August 16, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. - Not even Monday's solar eclipse could cast a shadow on the trend toward solar energy in Oregon.

People are following lower costs. According to the Energy Trust of Oregon, the cost for installation of solar panels on homes has gone down 17 percent since 2014. Lizzie Rubado, the trust's program-strategies manager, said it helped 1,200 residential-rooftop installations then. The number is expected to be closer to 2,000 this year.

Rubado said solar customers benefit from net metering, which allows them to feed any excess energy back into the grid, and also newer technology.

"It's becoming increasingly common for people to install battery-storage systems with their PV array," she said, "which allows them to manage more of their consumption themselves, personally balance how much they're using from the utility and when with what they're using from their solar system."

A photovoltaic array is the panel that absorbs energy. Batteries have the benefit of storing energy that can be used in the event of a blackout - or a solar eclipse.

Commercial support has gone up as well. The Energy Trust expects to help with three times as many commercial installations this year as it did in 2014. Rubado expects technology similar to the batteries that are helping residential customers - on a much larger scale - will attract utility companies to solar.

"It would allow for electricity to essentially serve the grid at times when it is most advantageous to the utility," she said, "so like, at peak times that systems would be providing extra electricity and not so much at times when they don't need the electricity."

One of the most important pieces of the solar puzzle is jobs. From 2015 to 2016, solar saw a 50 percent growth in employment in Oregon, according to the Solar Foundation, jumping from 3,000 to 4,500 jobs. The jobs also are accessible to everyone. Nearly 70 percent of them don't require a bachelor's degree.

More information from the Energy Trust of Oregon is online at energytrust.org, and from the Solar Foundation at solarstates.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR