Update: Solarize Eugene ended registration on June 22, 2012. Join us on July 25 to celebrate our success and get your questions about solar answered by program staff, volunteers, supporters, community members who have solarized, and solar contractors!
What is Solarize Eugene?
Solarize Eugene will help you overcome the logistical and financial hurdles to going solar. In this program, your neighbors will be pursuing solar with you, so you not only have peers to talk to, but you will also get a “group-buy” discount. Check back on this website for more information or join our mailing list for updates on the program details and start date.
Who can participate?
Any EWEB electricity customer is eligible, even those who also use natural gas, heating oil, or some other energy source as well.
How do I sign up?
We encourage you to look over the FAQs on this page and come to a workshop if you can; by learning more about solar you can help us streamline the process and keep the costs low. If you're ready to solarize, then you can register here. Join our mailing list for updates on the program and upcoming workshops. In the meantime, if you’d like to participate by helping spread the word, contact us for more information on volunteering, or pass on a link to our website.
Does solar work in Eugene?
Yes! Eugene receives as much annual solar resource as the national average, thanks to our sunny summers, which offset our cloudy winters. Today, more than 17,000 Oregon households use solar energy systems to generate electricity or to heat water. Germany is installing more new solar energy systems per capita in the world than any other country, yet Berlin receives less sun than Oregon’s cloudiest spot.
What if my roof is shaded or I don’t have much roof space?
Don’t give up on solar before you’ve considered all your options! Just because your roof is shaded or isn’t south facing (the most ideal orientation) doesn’t mean that solar has to be out of the picture. East- or west-oriented roofs may be suitable for solar electric panels and solar hot water systems still work with a bit of shading. Alternatively, consider your garage or ground mounts in your yard. How about creating a solar cabana?
To receive the EWEB solar incentives, you have to have 85% total solar resource fraction (TSRF), which represents the fraction of energy a particular collector would receive when compared to one in the same city, but that has optimal tilt, orientation and no external shading. For example, a collector with a TSRF of 85 percent indicates that 85 percent of the solar energy at your location over a year will be available to the solar collector.
Before cutting down trees, consider the energy you save in the summer from their cool shade as well as their ability to absorb carbon dioxide.
How long will the system last?
The warranty on most solar panels is about 25 years. Other components such as the inverter may need maintenance earlier on. However, the lifetime of the system can be between 30-50 years. After 25 years, the output of the system will generally be about 80% of when they were first installed.
How will this program make solar systems affordable?
Solarize Eugene will lower the sticker price of a complete high quality residential solar system by bringing community members together so that they can collectively pursue solar together and get a “group-buy” discount. The program also takes advantage of EWEB and Energy Trust incentives, and state and federal taxes.
How much does it cost?
**UPDATE (June 15): All of our workshops are completed, but check out an overview of a system cost for an ideal installation on our homepage, or for a more detailed description of the price and our program in the Solarize Eugene workshop presentation (PDF).**
In terms of cost, broadly, for a 2.8kW PV system, you’d need about $8,000-$10,000 upfront after the EWEB incentive and before the state and federal tax credits (which cover a lot of the remaining costs for a system that size see this question below for more). For a solar hot water system the cost is $7,500 to $8,500 before EWEB and other incentives which can bring the cost down by about half. You can expect to generate about $75 worth of power per kilowatt annually, find out more about generation here. We are encouraging people to attend the workshops before registering to learn about net metering, the systems offered through Solarize Eugene, what you'll generate and what that power is worth, and how to participate in Solarize Eugene. The workshops will be a chance to get questions answered by the contractors, EWEB, and the Solarize program staff. By bringing people together to answer their questions, the contractors save time typically spent answering the same questions at each customer’s home at the site visit. This is part of what is bringing down the costs for the bulk purchase: the contractors save on customer acquisition time so they can give a lower price for Solarize participants.
What if I don’t know if solar is right for me?
Not a problem! Through educational workshops, discussions with the solar contractor, and a site assessment, you will have all the information need to make a decision.
Will a solar array change the value of my home?
Yes, it should increase the value of your home, as the energy it provides can be valued as income. Appraisers (or you) can use the new PV Value tool at http://pv.sandia.gov/pvvalue to determine the future energy output of the system. And, in Oregon, there is a state law that you cannot be charged more for your property taxes because of your solar system.
What incentives are available for solar PV in Eugene?
In addition to the great deal as part of the Solarize Eugene bulk solar purchase program, there are three additional incentives that you may qualify for: EWEB, State of Oregon, and Federal. If you are an EWEB customer, then you have access to EWEB incentives which are $1.70 per AC output watt up to $6,000 for residential systems. There is also a federal tax credit of 30% and a state of Oregon tax credit of $2.10 per installed watt up to $6,000, with a max of $1500 of the credit being used each year; if you do not have state tax liability, then there is an option to pass the credit on to someone else (scroll down on this page) (note: we have found that you have to take the full credit within 5 years and if you move you can continue to get the credit, but you should contact the ODOE and/or a tax professional about your specific situation). The EWEB and the state of Oregon incentives apply to the total system size/total system cost. The federal tax credit applies to the total minus the EWEB incentive and it must be for your principal residence, so rentals and second homes do not qualify.
What incentives are available for solar hot water in Eugene?
In addition to the great deal as part of the Solarize Eugene bulk solar purchase program, there are three additional incentives that you may qualify for: EWEB (electric water heater) OR Energy Trust (gas water heater), State of Oregon, and Federal. EWEB offers two incentives for solar hot water: cash discounts of $500 for domestic water heaters and pool heaters and zero-interest loans for domestic water heaters and pool heaters of up to $7,000, with maximum 60-month term. If you have gas water heating, then The Energy Trust of Oregon offers cash incentives for upgrading to solar hot water ($8 per therm saved up to $1500) and there is an additional bonus package of $400 for "completing a solar improvement along with two energy-efficiency upgrades within a six-month period." Find out more about solar hot water from an Energy Trust of Oregon handout. The state of Oregon offers a tax credit of $0.60 per kWh saved up to $1,500 with a limit of 50% of the total system cost; if you do not have state tax liability, then there is an option to pass the credit on to someone else (scroll down on this page) (we have found that you have to take the full credit within 5 years and if you move you can continue to get the credit, but you should contact the ODOE and/or a tax professional about your specific situation). There is also a 30% federal tax credit for solar hot water applied to the total cost minus the EWEB incentive. The federal credit must be for your principal residence. Rentals and second homes do not qualify.
Is leasing an option?
Yes, many people are interested in this option as there is no money down. However, you will have to pay a monthly fee to the company that owns the panels (lease), or you will pay the company for the electricity generated (Power Purchase Agreement). The contractors we are working with and other sources believe that customers are better off getting a standard or no-interest loan (which EWEB offers for solar hot water) and owning the system yourself. This allows you to receive all of the tax credits, incentives and the power generated for the life of the system (likely to be 25+ years). The leasing option may be more appropriate if you are not able to take advantage of tax or other incentives. Learn more about leasing here and decide if it is for you.
What is EWEB Greenpower?
EWEB's Greenpower program is one of the premier green power programs in the Northwest, allowing EWEB customers to support wind power and, as of 2012, local solar power. Consider signing up and supporting solar in Eugene. Learn more about the program and sign up here. Thanks to EWEB's Greenpower program for funding Solarize Eugene.
You will need a photovoltaic array (the panels) to capture the sun's energy, an inverter (or several micro inverters) to convert the direct current (DC) produced from the photovoltaic cells into alternating current (AC) used by your home, and a bi-directional utility meter – also called a net meter – that can record both the electricity power you may use off the grid as well as power you send back to the utility. These three system components are then connected through a series of wiring. The photovoltaic panels are secured to your roof with panel mounts or are installed on poles that can be adjusted for sun angle.
It depends on how much energy you use. EWEB does not allow deliberate over sizing – the intent is to offset your energy use, not to over-generate. It takes 100 square feet for a 1kW system (see below for how much energy this will produce).
In Eugene, Oregon, you can expect a maximum average of 1,100 kWh generated per installed kW per year. If you “net” the energy (send it directly into your home and use it) you will save about $75 annually for each installed kW. If you don’t have need for the energy, and you send it back to EWEB, you will receive a bill credit of approximately $60 per year for each installed kW. EWEB credits you the “avoided cost” of producing that power, not the retail rate, thus the difference in savings versus credit. (Avoided cost is calculated annually based on several energy market variables, and reset January 1 of each year).
What are the basic requirements to go solar electric in this program?
Yes, you need a permit, but your installer will obtain the permit for you and the cost will be included in your bid. The price for permits ranges from $200 to $600. The City of Eugene is giving $100 off of the permitting fees to the first 25 Solarize permits to come through the door!
You should have at least 10 years left in the life of your roof. Since these systems last about 30 years, more roof life is certainly better.