Oregon Expands Support for Solar and Other Renewable Energy

July 12, 2007

Oregon has followed up passage of a new Renewable Energy Standard (RES) with a series of laws to boost applications of solar and other renewable energy technologies. Among other benefits, the measures are expected to attract more solar manufacturers to the state.

The RES, which requires that 25 percent of the state's electric load come from renewable energy by 2025, was adopted in April. By the end of June, the Oregon State Legislature and Governor Ted Kulongoski had wrapped up the legislative session by passing a number of laws to further promote renewables. Some highlights include:

  • Solar Energy in Public Buildings, House Bill (HB) 2620, which requires state and local government to devote at least 1.5 percent of the cost of constructing a new building or renovating an existing building to solar energy technologies if the building receives state funds. Passive solar energy investments can meet the requirement if they reduce energy use by at least 20 percent.
  • The Solar Incentives bill, HB 3488, which expands the property tax exemption for residential use of solar energy to business and other uses of solar and other renewable energy systems, including systems that can be used with net metering. The bill also authorizes the Oregon Public Utility Commission to establish tariffs and rules to further encourage investor-owned utilities to invest in renewable energy beyond what they currently provide.
  • An amendment to the Business Energy Tax Credit, HB 2211, which increases the tax credit for renewable energy systems installed by businesses from 35 percent to 50 percent and increases the project cost limit from $10 million to $20 million. The bill also makes the costs of constructing facilities to manufacture renewable energy systems and components eligible for the tax credit.
  • The Residential Energy Tax Credit, HB 2212, which applies to more than one qualifying item in the same year. For example, a homeowner could get the credit for installing a solar water heater, a solar electric system, and/or multiple energy-efficient appliances during a calendar year. The bill also increases the maximum tax credit for fuel cells and for wind generation from $1,500 to $6,000.

Other bills were passed that encourage development, distribution, and use of biofuels; establish energy efficiency standards for appliances and electrical equipment; authorize development of rules relating to ocean wave energy facilities; strengthen enforcement of vehicle emissions standards; and support development of hydrogen technology.

After passage of the legislation, Kulongoski said, "This will be remembered as a banner year for solar energy in Oregon," said Governor Ted Kulongoski. "We have already attracted two new major solar manufacturers to the state, with more likely on the way."

The two companies Kulongoski was referring to are SolarWorld AG and Solaicx®. SolarWorld AG, based in Germany, is building a solar silicon wafer and solar cell production facility in Hillsboro. The plant is expected to become the largest solar factory in North America if it reaches its projected capacity of 500 megawatts by 2009. Solaicx, based in California, is constructing a plant in Portland that will produce monocrystalline silicon ingots, which are used in photovoltaic panels.

For more information on the legislation, see a summary of energy bills enacted by the legislature, which was compiled by the Oregon Department of Energy.

Sources: July 3 and July 11 articles in Renewable Energy Weekly.

To read more about renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Oregon, see: