Peeters Weem: Solar in Forest Grove may start with you
The state of Oregon has long been known for its mild weather, cloudy skies and, of course, rain. It gives the state lush forests, beautiful wildlife and ensures that the rivers and lakes relied upon for so many things, stay full.
However, it is uncertain how long things will stay this way. Global warming brings a shift in weather patterns which will affect Oregon's crops, ecosystems and way of life. Other parts of the world, meanwhile, have been, and will continue to be, devastated by increasingly hostile weather conditions.
Saving the environment needs to be a top priority.
One of the major ways this can be done is with investment in renewable energy. Forest Grove is currently discussing how best to start that investment, and encourage their citizens to do the same.
Forest Grove buys most of their power from Bonneville Power Administration, which as the name suggests is generated mostly from hydroelectric dams.
For the most part, hydropower is a good source of energy — it's carbon-free and often considered renewable.
But the state of Oregon does not share that opinion. In Oregon, only small hydroelectric dams can be classified as renewable. Their website claims that's because classifying large dams this way would hurt the development of other eco-friendly energy production.
And that's not the only downside to hydropower. For instance, it produces methane — a potent greenhouse gas — blocks natural waterways, destroys ecosystems and alters the geology of rivers. Additionally, it only runs as long as the volume of water in rivers is sustained. Increasingly dangerous weather conditions and an exploding population put that at risk.
These realities make it necessary for Oregon to think outside the box, about where our energy comes from.
Most people who live within the city of Forest Grove receive about 90% hydropower. So to remedy the depreciative effects, solar was investigated as an alternative. Forest Grove's Solar Feasibility Study researched two plots of land in Forest Grove. Both were on city property next to substations.
So far, it's unclear what will happen as a result, but the study was anything but positive.
It laid out multiple options for arrays that could be built. The sizes ranged from a 50-kilowatt community-owned and self-funded array, to a 1-megawatt city-owned array. But although the size options were abundant, the locations were not. These stations were the only plots researched in the study, and placing solar panels on this land would conflict with future expansions of substations.
Solar may be a viable option for Forest Grove on the small scale. Placing panels on roofs of city owned buildings is a very exciting idea, but one that would need to be researched first.
A community-based solar array is also an option with some support. Forest Grove Light & Power found that after all their research, this was the most likely to succeed. A community solar array would simply be a small (50kw) array shared and paid for by a group of environmental citizens.
Concerned individuals, like yourself, are also encouraged to place solar panels on roofs. And to receive the benefits of living sustainably.
In addition, Forest Grove Light & Power currently provides a Pure Power program. It invests your money in wind generation in Eastern Oregon and Washington. To sign up, print and fill out the brochure on the city website and drop it off, or mail it in with your next bill payment.
As of yet, these small-scale operations seem to be the best choice for renewable energy in Forest Grove. But who knows? Solar and other renewable energies continue to get cheaper, more efficient and more durable. Ideas and ways to help the environment, meanwhile, continue to blossom. And, of course, discussions will continue at Sustainability Commission and City Council meetings.
Come by and join in the discussion. Or just choose to show your support for the environment by living sustainably and by doing your own research on buying renewables.
Johanna Peeters Weem is a member of the Forest Grove Sustainability Commission.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)