The Future of Clean Energy Is Bright: How Oregon Solar Could Go from 1% to 10% in 10 Years

It’s an exciting time to be alive.

From amazing medical developments, like bionic prosthetics and the ability to grow entirely new organs from stem cells, to advancements in technology that have enabled us to find ice on Mars and break the petaflop barrier, and expansions in clean energy technology that have resulted in its widespread availability and affordability – we’re living in a fast-paced, constantly developing world.

When it comes to energy production, the decisions we make today will have a lasting impact on our planet, people and infrastructure. A report released in 2015 by the Obama administration said that almost half of the country’s gas transmission and gathering pipelines were built in the 1950s and 1960s during a wave of construction following World War II. We’ve relied on this infrastructure for over half a century, and are now facing a point where we must decide whether to lock ourselves into more fossil fuel for the foreseeable future, or embrace the many promises of clean energy. 

According to a new report released by the Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association (OSEIA), the transition to clean energy already underway in Oregon. Currently, nearly 50-percent of electricity consumed in Oregon is produced from fossil fuels. Solar power provides less than one percent of our state’s electricity – enough to power 30,000 homes. While this may not sound like much, we’re actually 19th in the US on solar capacity, right in the middle of the pack. Our solar industry employs 4,500 people.

OSEIA projects that in 10 years, we could install four gigawatts in Oregon, to produce 10% of Oregon’s energy needs, power 500,000 homes and create 8,000 Oregon jobs.

And why not? The costs of solar technologies have dropped significantly in recent years, and are projected to continue falling. Solar power is now cost competitive with fossil fuels and has the potential to become the cheapest electricity source on the planet in the next ten years.

So just how will we get from 30,000 to 500,000 homes powered? OSEIA has a plan:

  • Payback rooftop solar installations within ten years.
  • Grow the solar workforce and stabilize existing jobs within the solar industry
  • Reduce solar soft costs while supporting and maintaining living wages for solar workforce
  • Reduce or eliminate persistent barriers to market entry or participation
  • Develop a solar policy framework for Oregon to sustain a stable solar industry

We already have some policies in place to incentivize solar installation; but we must keep those, and add new ones, if we want to progress. That’s where OSEIA’s role becomes vitally important. They work with industry leaders, academic scholars, legislators, government, and nonprofits like OEC to advocate for solar technologies and raise awareness of their potential to help secure an affordable, reliable, and clean energy future. We’re proud to partner with them on important legislation like 2016’s Clean Electricity and Coal Transition bill, and this year’s bill to reauthorize residential incentivizes for rooftop solar installation.

Quartz recently reported that solar is projected to fall to half the price coal or natural gas within a decade or two. This has already happened in some places, like Chile, where energy firm Solarpack contracted to sell solar at just $29.1 per megawatt hour – 58% below prices from a new natural gas plant. And right here in Portland, we’re seeing solar continue to expand and thrive; read about the largest private solar array on the rooftop of the Montgomery Park building here. As we said, it’s an exciting time to be alive. The future of clean energy looks bright, and getting brighter every day.

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