State's largest multifamily solar array now in Milwaukie
Madeline Gefroh felt confident she had made the right choice when she and her husband moved in November of last year from their multi-story house to a one-level unit at Waverley Greens Apartments.
She liked the fact the family-owned development in Milwaukie catered to both older residents and families. She liked the community garden and the pet-friendly policies.
This month, she found one more reason to appreciate her new home as Waverley Greens unveiled what is being touted as the largest solar array to be installed on multifamily housing in Oregon.
The installation features 1,400 panes on the roofs of 13 buildings in five of Waverley Greens' seven communities. The panels will generate more than 425 kilowatts of power, enough to offset 100% of the electricity used in common areas, including operating the community swimming pool, powering outside lights and providing electrical needs for a community center. Per year, the installation will help offset 200 tons of carbon emissions.
The Wyse family, which owns the apartment complex, began working on plans for the solar installation a little more than a year ago, according to property manager Diedre Colantino. With a total of seven apartment "communities" spread over 27 acres, it made sense on several levels.
The main desire was to take a giant step toward reducing the community's carbon footprint. But the idea of saving money in the long run also was an attractive incentive, according to Colantino.
"When you're looking at running a business like this, there are huge costs in property expenses, and utilities are one of the biggest," she said.
It takes a team
In bringing the photovoltaic installation from idea to reality, the Waverley Green team worked with Portland General Electric and Energy Trust, which provided $93,744 in incentives to help offset the cost of the initial installation.
Portland-based Elemental Energy handled the actual installation of the panels. The work took about five months and required some innovation, according to John Grieser, a renewable energy consultant and co-owner of the company.
Two of the apartment buildings — the Stuart and the Waverley — were built in 1967. The other 11 were built over the ensuing years. As a result, each required a different solution when it came to engineering how the photovoltaic arrays were attached to the roofs.
"All were architecturally wildly different, were structurally wildly different … all of the attachments had to be wildly different," Grieser said.
While he admitted it's rare to find solar installations on multifamily housing, he hopes the Waverley Greens installation might signal the start of a trend in the Portland metro area.
"Hopefully, this will encourage some other apartment owners to do the same," Grieser said.
The rooftop installation has already created a ripple effect at Waverley Greens, according to Colantino.
One of the owners of the multifamily development had previously talked about trying to bring in electric cars. With the installation of the solar arrays, the "excitement" carried over and led to a unique arrangement with Platt Auto Group, which has a location in Milwaukie that specializes in used electric vehicles, Colantino said.
For residents who buy electric vehicles from Platt, Waverley Greens will cover the cost to install charging stations in tenants' garages and carports. In addition, Waverley Greens' owners promised that the first three people to buy used electric vehicles from Platt would receive free charging for their cars for as long as they live in the community.
Waverley Greens recently purchased its own electric vehicle, Colantino said. The car, a Nissan Leaf decorated with the property's signature "W," was parked near the site of a dedication of the solar installation on Friday, June 14. Platt also supplied several vehicles from its used inventory that people attending the dedication event could test drive.
Since moving to Waverley Greens last year, Gefroh and her husband bought a new Toyota Rav 4. She also has a Fiat that she doesn't want to part with. But after the dedication event, she said she planned on talking to her husband about perhaps buying an electric vehicle sometime in the future.
"It's definitely something to think about," she said.
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