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City gets nod for renewable energy investments

Wind-power offsets, solar panels put Beaverton at renewable energy forefront


by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Cindy Dolezel, sustainability manager with the city of Beaverton, scales solar panels atop the Beaverton City Library, which she helped get installed. The panels are one of the more visible signs of the city's support of renewable energy sources, which Portland General Electric recently recognized with an award. Portland General Electric designated the city of Beaverton Oregon’s only municipality to collect 100 percent of its energy needs for civic operations from wind and other renewable power sources.

The commitment that put the city among only seven entities to earn PGE’s Platinum Energy Award comes not from operating solar panels and windmill farms, however, but from investing in renewable offsets that support the power company’s investment in green energy sources.

The renewable power provides juice to fuel the city’s street lights, traffic signals and public water supply.

“Basically, the city is paying to support the generation of renewable energy in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest,” said Cindy Dolezel, the city of Beaverton’s Sustainability Division manager. “This does not mean the actual electrons from a wind turbine are going directly into city facilities. It means that our commitment and financial support is making the electrons available to the electricity grid in an amount equivalent to the electricity we use for the city’s operational needs.”

In 2012, the city’s total electricity consumption was 10,768,104 kilowatt hours, resulting in an estimated 5,169 tons of carbon dioxide emissions — the equivalent to the annual C02 produced from 1,077 vehicles, according to Environmental Protection Agency calculations.

The city’s financial support of renewables goes back to 2007, when it purchased an average of 64 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. Beginning this year, the city began purchasing enough wind energy to offset its energy use for all operations, including streetlighting, water pumping, electric vehicle charging and all municipal facilities.

“We used to just purchase enough for our buildings only,” Dolezel said, “and now we purchase offsets for all of our city activities.”

While several Oregon cities support renewables at PGE’s “gold” level, Beaverton is currently the only municipality supporting 100 percent of its energy usage through renewables — earning the power company’s “platinum” ranking. The city joins other entities PGE recognized in the category including Burgerville, Dave’s Killer Bread, EasyStreet Online Services, Organically Grown Company, Portland Timbers and Widen-Kennedy.

Supporting renewable energy, Dolezel noted, is slightly more expensive than the traditional route. The city invests $2,440 per month to support renewable electricity, spending an average of nearly $30,000 annually.

“Costs of renewable power are getting less and less expensive,” she noted.

Shining on

In a separate sustainability-oriented arrangement, PGE pays the city for the solar power generated by panels on the roof of Beaverton City Library at 12375 S.W. Fifth St.

“It is a feed-in tariff, so we get paid for the electricity that is produced at approximately $7,000 per year for 15 years,” Dolezel said, noting the project, financed almost entirely with federal funds, generates revenue for the city. “It’s a win-win.”

The solar array system produced more than 22,470,000 kilowatt-hours of power in 2013, which translates to keeping nearly 30,000 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, Dolezel noted.

A meter array in the library lobby shows how much power the solar panels generate by the minute. To view the panels’ ongoing power generation levels online, visit solrenview.com.

The city is continuing its solar energy investment with a 433 kilowatt system planned for its Sexton Mountain Reservoir. Energy Trust of Oregon awarded the city $355,421 to enter a power-purchase agreement for the panel array. Oak Leaf LLC will construct the system in exchange for a long-term agreement to purchase the generated power at a discounted rate to pump municipal water to the site.

“This is one of the city’s largest electricity-using facilities and costs the city approximately $106,000 per year in electricity to pump water from the reservoir,” Dolezel said, noting approximately 55 percent of the facility’s power needs will be discounted through solar panels.

The city’s solar panels and renewable energy offset purchases result from the citizen-based Visioning process during 2011 and 2012.

“As part of the community visioning process, we received input from over 5,000 citizens from the Beaverton community,” Dolezel noted, “and the residents have asked the city to support green technologies and clean energy.”

Mayor Denny Doyle, who adopted a sustainability strategy with 11 goals including green-power generation, said PGE’s recognition indicates Beaverton is on the cutting edge of renewable technology.

“By supporting these renewable energy sources since 2007, Beaverton continues to contribute to a bright, sustainable energy future for Oregon,” he said. “We understand the importance of investing in green power to preserve the high-quality of life our community enjoys.”