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OIT 'Digs' Oregon's Biggest Public Solar System

By Matt McDonald
Published On: Sep 08 2011 01:28:10 AM CDT
Updated On: Aug 18 2011 09:16:11 AM CDT
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -

With shovels in hand and solar panels behind them on a bright, sunny day, officials broke ground Thursday in Klamath Falls on Oregon's largest public "solar system."

"The scale is about 10,000 of these solar panels which you see behind me here,? said Bob Simonton, an associate provost with the Oregon University System, who has worked on planning the project for more than five years.

Covering 16 acres on the Oregon Institute of Technology campus, the solar array will produce enough electricity to power 900 homes a year, or 35 percent of the campus.

The rest will come from the school's on-campus geothermal energy plant, making what the governor's office says will be the nation's first college campus fully powered by renewable energy.

The solar array is projected to save the school $3.3 million in electricity costs over the next 25 years.

?What this project demonstrates to us is Oregon's leadership in the new clean energy economy and the potential for renewables and clean energy to really drive our state's economy in the future,? said Gov. John Kitzhaber, on hand for the event.

But it may be difficult for future Oregon projects like this one to get funding. A major part of the state backing for this project got cut back in the latest budget.

"There has been some difficulties with the business energy tax credit over the years,? said Simonton.

Over the last biennium, the governor's office says around $100 million in tax credits were granted through the Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit program. The tax credit for projects like this is gone for now, replaced with just $3.5 million in state-backed funding.

"This project to me is a real expression of Oregon values,? said Gov. Kitzhaber.

Adding insulation or improving windows, the governor's office is quick to point out -- that part of the tax credit still exists.

Like the solar array at OIT, others at at OSU and Eastern Oregon University were approved before the tax credit was cut back.

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