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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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Solar Forward FAQ

Last updated September 24, 2013

What is Solar Forward?

Solar Forward is Portland’s first solar crowdsourcing program. Solar Forward is where the community energy movement meets the crowdfunding craze. Portlanders now have a way to help fund the development of new, local renewable energy systems. 


What are the goals of the project?

  • To raise at least $50,000 from community members to match seed funding from the Penstemon Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation and launch Portland’s first revolving solar fund. The more funds raised by Solar Forward, the more systems that can be installed at future locations.
  • To install the first, 10-kilowatt solar electric system on Portland Parks and Recreation’s Southwest Community Center by October 1, 2013.


What are the details around donating?

  • Contribute any amount to help seed the fund. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by your individual circumstances. For guidance on taxes, please consult an attorney or tax professional who is familiar with your circumstances.
  • Contributors will receive permanent recognition, but not legal ownership of solar panels.
  • Visit for instructions.


How do I benefit from my contribution? Who else benefits?

This is an innovative project that’s all about local energy. Solar Forward offers you the chance to build new, community energy assets, reduce carbon pollution, put local people to work installing PV systems, and help pave new ways for collectively powering our future.

If successful, some of the biggest benefit to the community are:

  • Proving the concept that Portlanders care about their local energy future enough to take control of financing it.
  • “Norming” solar. Success means that solar becomes as ubiquitous and as accepted as the electricity poles and wires we barely take notice of any longer.
  • Southwest Community Center will receive the benefit of the onsite electricity production.


How is Solar Forward funded?

  • A generous grant from the Penstemon Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation has been used to kickstart construction of the program’s first solar electric installation at Southwest Community Center.
  • Utility incentives from Portland General Electric are another key piece of the revenue stream for the revolving community solar fund. PGE pays the City for the energy produced by the system under the Solar Payment Option program:
  • And of course, there's YOU! Crowdsourced contributions are the third source of capital in the Solar Forward fund.


How does the revolving community solar fund work?

The City of Portland has created a special revenue fund called the Community Solar Special Revenue Fund to take in grant funds, community contributions and utility incentive revenues and to manage these funds for the purpose of installing additional solar electric systems on publicly-owned buildings.


Why was Southwest Community Center chosen as the first location?

The location offers more than adequate space and excellent solar access for the proposed system. SWCC was selected from among a number of potential City-owned properties because its popularity and high visibility provide excellent opportunities to educate and engage people around distributed renewable energy.


Where will the next system be installed?

There are numerous potential sites spread throughout all quadrants of Portland that are possible sites for future Solar Forward systems.

On October 1, 2013, BPS will apply to the Oregon Pubic Utility Commission’s Solar Pilot Program  to secure production-based incentives from PGE and Pacific Power for future community sites. This production-based incentive is known by several terms, including the Volumetric Incentive Rate (VIR), feed-in tarriff (FIT), or the Solar Payment Option. Once we know which sites have been awarded these incentives, we will publish the information on our website and begin the active crowdsourcing campaign.

Portlanders will be able to tell Solar Forward which sites they most want to see us invest in. The sites that have the greatest show of support – in terms of NUMBER of supporters, NOT total dollar amount raised – will help dictate where Solar Forward builds the next PV system(s).


Can I get my electricity from this installation?

Oregon’s current utility rules prevent giving contributors a kilowatt-hour credit on their utility bills for their share of the actual energy production. The ability to provide participants credit on their bill for the amount of kilowatt-hours generated from their proportion of the PV project is known as community net metering and is a common element in community solar projects in other states. Community net metering is not currently allowed under Oregon’s existing net metering laws.

The electricity produced from the system at Southwest Community Center will be used by the facility.


Why should I support this project if I can’t get my electricity from it? That’s the real reason I want solar!

The broader Portland community benefits because the SW Community Center is supplying a portion of its electricity consumption from clean power generation and reducing community carbon emissions.Southwest Community Center will receive the benefit of the onsite electricity production.

Consumers that are interested in community net metering and in tracking the policy discussions around net metering in general are encouraged to get involved with Solar Oregon, OSEIA and Renewable Northwest Project.


How much will Southwest Community Center save on its electric bill?

The amount that SWCC saves on energy costs will be on the order of a few hundred dollars in the first few years. As utility rates increase, the amount that SWCC saves will increase as well. At the end of 15 years, SWCC will receive the full value of the electricity produced by the system.


How much electricity will the installation generate for Southwest Community Center?

The system is expected to generate approximately 10,500 kWh per year for SWCC, with more production in the summer and less in the winter. This PV system is relatively small compared to SWCC’s annual electricity load. Utility incentives, which are a critical piece of the financing for PV systems in Oregon, dictate the size of this particular system (10 kW and less). If this demonstration project proves successful, we hope to install larger systems in the future.


Who are the Solar Forward partners?

City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability,Portland Parks and Recreation and Solar Oregon.