Mid-Fall 2022 * No 14
Thanks to our September and October Saturday
Farmers Market Recycling volunteers
Here's how can you HELP us with Carton Recycling
TETRA PAK and juice boxes - wash, dry and unfold the corners
TETRA PAK - Flatten and put the cap on! Voila, it is nearly flat!
MILK/CREAMER carton - UNDO the top of the carton, Flatten the bottom, reat
Reminder - Cartons must be:
Climate Change Corner
Impact of Climate Change on Silverton
Three Silvertonians toured BRING Recycling in Eugene, a state-of-the-art reuse and recycling center that you’ll want to visit! We were extremely impressed with the work the non-profit organization has done since their inception fifty years ago. The organization was born in 1971 around the time the Oregon Bottle Bill was launched and has grown to a 1.5 million dollar operation.
It will be worth your time to visit BRING in Eugene! (But please consider carpooling there). Their store includes quality paints that have been formulated from paint donations and are sold at discount prices (MetroPaint). They have building materials such as windows, doors; even home furnishings and yard tools. Furthermore, BRING deconstructs buildings rather than demolish them, working with the city and county to avoid filling up the landfills.
BRING purchased its current site in 2007, where it collects, processes and sells its donations. They now have 20 employees while paying a living wage and include health insurance. Moreover, BRING serves as an educational center for conservation and highlights local artists at their store.
This fall they gleaned from local farms to create a community apple-cider making event, and have been collaborating for a number of years with environmentally-focused groups on a statewide network. They also collect data, measure success, and are doing research on efficiency and costs for reusing vs. recycling materials, as well as reducing food waste in schools and in the community.
Solarizing in Silverton An active Case Study
Part 3: Still Seeking Solutions
By Elyce Hues October 2022
In pursuit of rooftop solar for a 1960’s home nestled within an oak and fir grove, this homeowner goes on a discovery ride.
Last Month, in Solarizing in Silverton...
Julie Williams and Nancy Evenson with Seeds for Sol came out for a visit and wondered at the feasibility of solar panels on the home’s roof; Julie suggested Elyce look into community solar. They also investigated possible causes of the high energy use, but when no clear culprit emerged, Elyce looped her dad in. As usual for her dad, he had excellent insights and suggested that the most likely culprit for the energy drain was the water heater that had last been changed in 1990.
Does solar make sense ANYWHERE on my site?
Julie Williams has seen dozens of solar-install projects, evaluating site conditions and the return on investment (ROI) time period for each home. So after she gazed at my roof with a raised eyebrow and said, “I don’t see how your roof is a candidate for solar, even if you did take down more trees,” I tabeled my $50k solar panel bid from Pure Energy to look into community solar. However, that quickly hit a dead end when I found no community solar available to PGE electricity users. (Good news on that below!)
I went back to the drawing board. An online article described an easy test to gather a rough idea of a site’s solar potential: Stand facing south, arms raised overhead in a “Y” shape. If you see clear sky from arm to arm, you may get enough solar exposure. Roaming my property, I found one 20’x20’ patch of land that passed the “Y” test. By this time, I had also decided to fit out my garage into a livable space. Perhaps this little patch of land could power the radiant floor heating system in the garage space. I called up the other solar installer in town, Earthlight.
“Hey,” I said, “I have this little patch of land...” Merissa pulled up my address in the company’s mapping software.
“I can’t make out anything but trees...,” she began.
“Oh yeah, well, you see,” I interjected, “four of those trees came down in the ice storm of 2021.”
Merissa informed me gently that their mapping software data is current within a week.
“Well, I have this one patch of land...,” I pressed. She offered to bring my case to an engineer on her team, and within a couple days, I was looking at a shade report generated for my property.
“The best you could do would be to harvest solar at 47% of the panels’ capacity,” Merissa said, walking me through the report. “You would be looking at a payback period of 30 years.”
I circled back with Jordan at Pure Energy. In a conference call including Julie and another partner at Pure Energy, Jordan told me that my experience was “a pretty accurate solar journey.” He explained how he had designed the system, sharing differences between the modeling and measurement tools used. Since he had physically come out to my property, he had been able to take actual measurements from my roof using the Helioscope tool, and estimated that their panels on my roof would harvest 80% of the capacity. (This will be the Total Solar Resource Fraction (TSRF) value on your quote.)
“How can a consumer like me make a wise decision in light of such different information from providers?” I asked.
“That,” replied Jordan, “is a great question.”
A Brief Consumer Guide to Purchasing Solar
In the conversation that followed, I gleaned the following tips on how to make a wise purchasing decision when considering solar:
1. Get 4-5 bids if you can.
I was only able to find two companies willing to send someone out to my home. I had selected the one that was a) local, and b) designed a system that may allow me to keep all my trees. Most households seeking solar will have a more amenable site, however, and Jordan said that most potential buyers gather 4-5 bids before making a decision.
2. As you gather each new bid, ask the contractor to review your previous bids. Ask the contractor to walk you through how they compare, considering factors such as what panels will be installed (is the quote for a specific manufacturer and model, or a generic type, i.e., “Tier 1 all-black”?; what type of inverters, i.e., micro-inverters or string-inverters?).
3. Ask for a cash price on each bid. This will allow you to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of the total systems
costs. Note that, even if the financed interest rate seems good and low, a “finance charge” is also added on to the total system cost. This can be substantial.
4. Consider asking for a “production guarantee.”
There is no better security than a guarantee from the company that your system will produce at least the quoted volume of kilowatts.
Additionally, consider whether it makes more sense to first channel your funds and efforts into increased energy efficiency of the home. This will allow you to meet your needs with a smaller solar system. Julie shared that the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act will provide Americans with extensive incentives for a wide array of energy efficiency upgrades and technologies beginning in 2023. You can get information specific to your home at https://www.rewiringamerica.org/app/ira-calculator.
Fellow Sustainable Silverton volunteer, Megan Benedict, and I met with the folks at Oregon Clean Power Cooperative, to ask what it would take to bring a community solar project to Silverton. That effort is now underway. What is clear is that the project will require substantial effort; whether or not it moves forward will most likely come down to volunteer capacity.
(Let us know if you’d like to help!)
We also learned that a new community solar project in Aurora is available for PGE customers to take part in. Head to http://oregoncleanpower.coop/ for more information and to sign up.
In our series’ last installment, we noted the following pro’s of community solar:
● You own the panels and all electricity they generate.
● You can sell the panels back to the solar farm owner at any time.
● You can move, and you don’t leave your panels back at your old house.
● Solar power suddenly becomes viable for renters or homeowners with too much shade.
● For income-qualifying customers, Seeds for Sol may be able to provide grant money for the initial purchase. As with rooftop solar, you pay back the grant out of your savings on your electricity bill.
● Apparently, the rate structure is different for community solar than panels installed on your home. While the owner of a home-installed panel owns every kilowatt that system generates, the owner of a community solar panel receives a per watt credit on the energy generated which is locked in at the time of purchase. So as electricity prices rise, the savings diminish.
If you would like to get involved with bringing community solar to Silverton, please send an email to: email@example.com. With energy prices forecast to keep climbing, securing solar will bring economic relief.
What about the water heater?, you may still be wondering. Well, yes, I did get the water heater changed, along with repiping the majority of my house. It’s too early to be certain if it has made a difference, but learning to read my electricity usage data has been eye-opening. Also, Jordan told me that my electricity usage is not really far from what he normally sees for a house of my size and occupancy. You can learn about your own home’s electricity usage at https://portlandgeneral.com. Once you log in, click on “Track your energy use” in the left side menu. There, you can view your electricity usage by month, day, and right down to the hour.