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SNW Team Wins National Award for Solar in Rural Oregon

Posted by Hannah Meganck on May 22, 2019

Making Energy Work for Rural Oregon Team wins “Best Nonprofit Project”

FINAL_Solar-Community-OREGON

Sustainable Northwest Team Wins National Award for Solar in Rural Oregon

Sustainable Northwest’s Making Energy Work for Rural Oregon Team wins “Best Nonprofit Project” as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar in Your Community Challenge

May 22, 2019 [Portland, Oregon] – Today, Sustainable Northwest’s Making Energy Work for Rural Oregon Team announced that it won Best Nonprofit Project in the Solar in Your Community Challenge, a prize competition from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Technologies Office that aims to expand solar electricity access. The team, alongside Hood River County, Douglas County Smart Energy, and Lake County Resource Initiative utilized the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative, along with other grants and incentives, to finance and install 120kW of solar on four separate nonprofit facilities in rural Oregon. Read more about the Team Challenge here. 

The Making Energy Work team’s goal was to find a way to finance community solar on nonprofit facilities throughout Oregon. Over the past two years, the team has piloted innovative models to address the challenges community organizations in rural Oregon face in installing solar. Due to lack of capital, an inability to utilize tax credits and rigidity of the traditional banks loan system, low-income residents and nonprofits face real challenges in financing renewable energy projects. The team overcame these barriers, deploying solar on vital service facilities in rural communities across the state. “The Challenge Grant helped us install solar on hard to finance projects. We are delighted by the progress and proud of the teams’ pipeline – these communities now have the tools and experience they need to accelerate the adoption of clean affordable energy and advance important strategies to combat climate change," said Greg Block, President of Sustainable Northwest.  

The Team’s four installation benefitted the people of Hood River, Douglas and Lake Counties, installing solar on a public works facility, a health department, a library and an animal shelter. The 120 kW of solar resulted in utility bill reductions between 10-50% with an average of 20% bill savings. In addition to the installed solar, the experience the team gained under the Solar in Your Community Challenge has created a pipeline of an additional 15 projects including a food pantry, a rural volunteer fire station, a regional conservation organization, a middle school, a senior center, a church, and solar plus storage on a community college.

“Community Solar is about more than just clean energy; it’s about investing in your community. People want to put their money to work in the communities where they live and work” said Dan Orzech, General Manager of the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative.

Sustainable Northwest’s Making Energy Work for Rural Oregon team worked alongside more than 170 teams from 40 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico to develop projects and programs that expand solar access to low- and moderate-income households; nonprofit organizations; and state, local, and tribal governments. If all the Solar in Your Community Challenge teams successfully execute their business plans, the program would create 1.6 gigawatts of new solar by 2020 and serve as many as 900 nonprofits and nearly 50,000 households. Sustainable Northwest and The Making Energy Work team plans to use the challenge grant to redouble our commitment to support rural communities achieve their renewable energy goals by supporting a pipeline of 15 more projects, furthering the mission of the Solar in Your Community Challenge. 

The teams worked with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office and ICMA, the Prize Administrator who helped to implement the program. 

“Sustainable Northwest has done incredible work for rural communities in every stretch of Oregon. Climate chaos is threatening our future, and we need to act boldly and quickly to stop it. Rural communities are among the front-line communities that will be hit hardest by worsening droughts, more intense wildfires, severe flooding, and more. By helping those communities transition to solar energy, Sustainable Northwest is empowering rural Oregonians to make that bold change for the betterment of their futures. I congratulate the team for this well-earned award!” said Oregon’s U.S. Senator, Jeff Merkley.

About Sustainable Northwest

Founded in 1994, Sustainable Northwest works at the intersection of economy, environment, and community, pioneering natural resource solutions that work for people and nature. By bringing people together to find common ground, they are building a regional economy based on land stewardship and markets for sustainable wood and clean energy. For more information visit SustainableNorthwest.org

About the Oregon Clean Energy Cooperative

The Oregon Clean Power Cooperative is the first state-wide cooperative in the U.S. dedicated solely to renewable energy. Our member-financed projects keep capital circulating locally, create green jobs, and enable Oregon communities to become more self-reliant through locally-generated clean power. For more information visit www.oregoncleanpower.coop.

About the Solar in Your Community Challenge

The Solar in Your Community Challenge, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office and administered by International City/County Management Association, is a $5 million prize competition that aims to expand solar access to low and moderate income households; and state, local, and tribal governments; and non-profit organizations. 

More information about the selected teams and the Solar in Your Community Challenge is at www.solarinyourcommunity.org.   

About the Solar Energy Technologies Office

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on the grid. Learn more at energy.gov/solar-office.