Grant provides Health Dept. solar energy

Hood River County, in partnership with Sustainable Northwest, Pacific Power, and the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative, welcomes the public to the Hood River County Health Department building, 1109 June St., on July 31 at 11 a.m. for the ribbon cutting event for a new 24-kilowatt rooftop solar array.

The $70,000 project, which was funded by Pacific Power’s Blue Sky customers, will reduce energy costs and increase county resilience by providing clean energy generation and storage.

“A clean, reliable back-up energy system is critical for ensuring that vaccines and other perishable medical supplies stay refrigerated during power outages,” said Jeff Hecksel, Hood River County administer. “We’re grateful to Sustainable Northwest and the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative for making this project possible, and to Pacific Power and their Blue Sky customers for awarding us this funding support. The immediate savings from the solar system will help us address growing budget concerns.”

The new solar system is expected to save the Health Department more than $25,000 in energy costs over 10 years, said a press release. Once the battery funding is secured and installed, the system will also offer the facility a new level of disaster preparedness. The building’s current diesel-powered backup generators are expensive, dirty, and inconvenient to run, and rely on access to diesel fuel, continued the press release.

The new solar array and proposed battery backup system could allow the facility to keep the lights on with clean renewable energy, even in the event of an extended emergency when diesel fuel may not be available.

This project is part of a statewide effort to increase installations of solar energy systems on nonprofit and government facilities, driven by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Community Challenge. Hood River County, Lake County and Douglas County teamed up with Sustainable Northwest to compete nationally to pilot, refine and replicate innovative solar energy projects, increasing access and the benefits of solar technology to rural and underserved communities.

The Oregon Clean Power Cooperative is supporting the SunShot team’s efforts through its unique community financing model, which allows community members to invest in local solar projects. Hood River’s first community-financed solar project, designed and implemented at the City of Hood River’s Public Works building, leveraged investments from local co-op members.

During the July 31 ribbon cutting event, the county will recognize the community members who contributed to the development of the Hood River County Energy Plan. The multi-jurisdictional plan adopted this year by the Hood River County Commission, the Port of Hood River, the Port of Cascade Locks and the City of Hood River provides a roadmap to meet the county’s future energy goals, which includes developing community-sourced renewable energy projects, said a press release.

“Initiatives such as the Hood River Energy Plan show the value and multiple benefits to the community when residents, elected officials, utilities such as Pacific Power, and community leaders come together to create a shared vision and common goals,” said Becky Brun, Hood River City councilor and co-chair of the Energy Plan Steering Committee.

“Projects like this one help demonstrate that clean energy projects are smart investments in our future,” she said.

“Our Blue Sky customers put their dollars to work in their communities,” said Lori Wyman, Pacific Power’s regional business manager. “Not only will these facilities supply renewable energy, but they are helping increase the visibility and adoption of renewable technology.

“We are proud to be part of this important partnership with communities and our Blue Sky customers,” she said.

The Hood River County Health Department project is part of up to $1.1 million in new renewable energy investment in 2018, bringing more than 675 kilowatts of new renewable energy capacity online. Since 2006, Pacific Power Blue Sky customers have helped fund the installation of 113 community-based projects totaling nearly 10 megawatts of renewable energy generation capacity, demonstrating the viability of renewable energy in their communities with more than $11 million in investment during that time. Pacific Power Blue Sky program is currently accepting applications for renewable energy projects through August 17.

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