USDA Grant Lowers Community Solar Costs

(Redmond, Ore.)  – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced Central Electric Cooperative will receive an $86,912 grant to help reduce the costs of the cooperative’s community solar project in Bend. Provided through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), the grant’s proceeds will reduce participation costs by 20 percent for CEC members who subscribe to a portion of the energy produced under the Shared Solar program.

“We are very grateful to have qualified for a REAP grant,” said Central Electric President and Chief Executive Officer Dave Markham. “These funds, combined with earlier grants from the Oregon Department of Energy and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, have greatly reduced the cost to our members who want to receive solar energy, but can’t have a rooftop solar installation. These grants have been essential to making solar energy more affordable for our members.”

The cooperative’s 199,500-watt system, installed on 1.3 acres next to its Bend Service Center on Southeast 27th St., has been sending electricity directly into CEC’s distribution system since coming online in late January. Members can subscribe to the energy produced by individual panels, or half or quarter panels. They receive an energy credit on their monthly bill that reflects the amount of electricity produced by their subscription that month.

Prior to the REAP grant, a full panel 20-year subscription was $1,100. The grant enabled CEC to reduce the price of a panel to $880, $440 for a half and $220 for a quarter panel. The Shared Solar program appeals to members who cannot install a rooftop solar system because they don’t own their home, their rooftop is not ideally oriented to the sun’s path, or systems are cost prohibitive. CEC members who have already subscribed will receive a rebate from CEC.

Of the project’s 700, 285-watt panels, half are dedicated to the Shared Solar program. The other half is supported by co-op members who voluntarily participate in the Green Power program. Its participants agree to pay extra on their electricity bill with the proceeds committed to promoting the growth of renewable energy.

More about REAP

Under REAP, the U.S.D.A. awarded more than $517,000 to help 16 rural small business and agricultural producers in Oregon reduce their energy usage and costs. More information is available in the agency’s news release at: