Community Energy Meets Crowdsourcing
Solar Forward is a crowd-sourcing campaign started by the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to offer community members a way to engage in the development of new, clean, local renewable energy systems on public buildings like community centers, schools and libraries.
Supporting renewable energy delivers real benefits to the community, from the quality of the air we breathe to the economic opportunity created for Portland’s small businesses and workers. All contributors receive permanent recognition at the host site and the feel-good benefit of reducing global warming pollution and proving a new model for community energy production.
BPS was awarded grant funds from the Oregon Community Foundation's Penstemon Fund in the amount of $100,000. This generous grant funded the installation of a 10-kilowatt solar electric system on Portland Parks & Recreation's Southwest Community Center and helped establish Solar Forward, Portland’s first revolving community solar fund.
Imagine solar arrays dotted on the dozens of community centers, libraries and schools throughout Portland. Solar Forward envisions a future in which rooftop PV modules are as common as the ubiquitous electricity poles and wires that we barely take note of any longer.
While there are over 150,000 residential rooftops in Portland, the majority of them are not suitable for solar because of tree shading, incorrect orientation to the sun or poor roof condition. In fact, only 25 percent of residential rooftop area is typically available to host onsite PV. This does not take into account the many personal reasons that someone may not be able to put solar on their own roof. Community solar offers an avenue for the majority of people who can’t install solar on their own homes.
Solar Forward brings together solar supporters with available roofspace on important community buildings.
Portland is not alone in trying to create new models for ownership of solar energy. Community solar is evolving as a movement in many other U.S.cities, including Seattle, Denver, Sacramento, Austin and Chicago.
While other programs are able to offer certain benefits to community solar subscribers – such as a credit on their electric bill or a financial return on investment – Oregon’s rules and regulations currently do not allow this type of program to be offered. Solar Forward is a voluntary, donation-based campaign. Solar Forward aspires to a future in which contributors are able to earn a return on their investment in a community solar system or are allowed to receive a credit on their bill for their proportion of the energy produced from their share of the system.