A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

‘Community solar’ catching rays off Hwy. 20

Written June 21st, 2024 by Hasso Hering

Peaks of the distant Cascades peek out Friday over the panels of the Marble Solar project about a mile east of the Albany city limit off Highway 20.

Drivers on Highway 20 east of Albany have noticed the pilings for photovoltaic solar panels going in near the corner of Cox Creek Lane.

By the time I drove out there Friday afternoon — no bike riding for me when the thermometer tops 90 degrees — scores of the solar panels had already been installed.

This solar farm, limited to 12 acres by its permit, is in the northwest corner of a 92-acre property owned by Duane and Janice Eicher, 36038 Eicher Road. It’s about a mile east of the Albany city line.

State law and the Linn County development code say that solar farms up to a certain size may be built on land zoned for exclusive farm use, as this site is, under certain conditions.

After appeals from decisions by the county planning staff and then the planning commission, the Linn County Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 on June 8, 2021, to approve a conditional use permit allowing Marble Solar LLC of Portland to install the solar panels.

In the spring of 2023, another company associated with the project, SolRiver Capital LLC, asked for and received a one-year extension of the deadline for when construction would have to start. The new deadline is Nov. 9, 2024, and as everyone can see, the project has beaten that date.

On its website, Marble Solar says its Linn County project, with a generating capacity of 2,875 kilowatts, is part of something called the Oregon Community Solar Program. The company explains:

“Community solar is solar energy generated from a central location and shared by multiple subscribers. That means you don’t need your own rooftop panels to get the benefits of solar. If you’re a customer of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power or Idaho Power, you can subscribe to a community solar project and receive credits back on your utility bill.”

This project, of course, is within the service territory of Pacific Power.

The website lists yet another company, Arcadia Community Solar LLC, as being in charge of signing up subscribers. But it’s early for that. About subscription options, the site says “coming soon.”

Also according to the Marble Solar site, the Linn County project is expected to start generating power in the third quarter of this year.

According to the findings backing up the county’s approval, the solar farm would not interfere with neighboring farm operations or cause any other problems. Among other things, the panels would not reflect sunlight into the eyes of pilots flying into or out of nearby Albany Airport.

As a small solar farm, this project did not have to go through the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council, where a much bigger proposal, the Muddy Creek Solar Farm south of Brownsville, is still pending. (hh)

From Cox Creek Lane, an unimproved private road south of Highway 20, the solar panels are almost invisible.

9 responses to “‘Community solar’ catching rays off Hwy. 20”

  1. Mike says:

    Cool installation. Are they growing anything under the panels? I’ve seen other solar farms with lettuce or flowers.

  2. Hansen, Dennis says:

    I have powered my Corvallis home with solar power for the past decade. I produce 105% of the power I need so I get a check each year back from my utility, Consumers Power for supplying the excess to the grid. The payback is 15 years here in Oregon so in 5 more years my energy will be free.

    • Al Nyman says:

      I looked closely and the payback was 25 years if the solar panels lasted that long. And, it would be dependant on the Chinese manufactures guarantee.

      • Hansen, Dennis says:

        1) These were not Chinese panels but were made by Solarworld in Hillsboro Oregon USA
        2) The payback is dependent on cost. Did you consider the Oregon and Federal rebates that lower it from 25 years to 15 years?
        3) After 25 years they still give out 95% of the original wattage. That is the guarentee. But the panels can last 100 years and more.

    • Hank says:

      When your electric meter ‘turns backwards’ I imagine you get some discount(?). But you still must pay something for the power grid and such, correct?

  3. Coffee says:

    Thanks, Hasso. I wouldn’t know about this if I weren’t a reader of your blog.

  4. Scott Bruslind says:

    Pure Energy out of Jefferson (tell them Scott sent you and we’ll split a $50 gift card) just put a 9.94kW system on one of our outbuildings for $21k (pre-federal tax credit.) Included in the install is a 50amp subpanel and a standby (gas/propane) generator interlock. Wildfire ready this year.
    We pencil ROI at 12.5 years, after the 30% federal credit is applied to our tax bill in 2025.

    The Community Solar Program connects energy users with solar projects. Folks are able to buy (subscribe) at a rate that is less than retail, so there is definitely incentive (if only a little.)
    Figure about 5% savings, but that is between a subscriber and the solar project. More and more projects coming on line. A bunch in Brownsville for some reason, and as Hasso says, this is not the massive Muddy Creek proposal.
    I can’t help but think that it’s driving Pacific Power to distraction, and will likely prompt them to ask for even greater rate increases which will shorten my solar panel ROI. Just sayin’.

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