星期四, 1月 21, 2021
Home PV Project Nonprofit gets charge from solar panel plan

Nonprofit gets charge from solar panel plan


One of the Northwest's biggest solar projects is unfolding in Northeast Portland.


Portland Habilitation Center, a nonprofit that employs hundreds of disabled workers at union wages, will install 4,800 solar panels at its new $8 million facility at Northeast 148th Avenue and Airport Way.


John Murphy, the center's president, says the project will save money in the long run. It also will more than provide for the center's energy needs and put it on the green map — attracting good PR.  
 
"Over the years, we've tried to stay below the radar, although I expect that'll change soon," he says.


The German-made panels will be capable of producing about 870 kilowatts of power, making the project one of the largest solar ventures in the region.


Murphy estimates project costs at $6.45 million, with most coming from nonprofit Energy Trust of Oregon, local investors and foundations. Investors, whether companies or individuals, receive federal energy tax credits.


"We're spending a great deal of our own money, but we expect it to pay for itself in the next 10 to 15 years," Murphy says. "It should give us an edge in bidding for contracts by lowering our energy costs over the long run and generating lots of positive publicity."


The new one-story 110,000-square-foot building, with a pitched roof and a bird's-eye view of the Columbia River, is ideal for solar, Murphy says. When the huge panels begin generating electricity in December, they'll produce more than what the company needs, he says, making expansion possible.


"This means we'll be able to add manufacturing customers and greater employment opportunities for the people we work with," he says. "Everyone wins on this."


The Habilitation Center opened in 1951 in Southeast, initially to provide education programs for children with developmental disabilities. Over the years, services expanded to include employment and training for adults with physical and emotional disabilities in janitorial, landscaping, manufacturing, production and clerical fields. Center staff members also manage about 500 housing units in the metro area.


The center built its current 75,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in outer Northeast in 1996. The new building, visible from North Marine Drive, will be in addition to the 1996 facility, not a replacement.


State officials have toured the new site and praised the decision to go solar as a good fit with Oregon's goal of becoming a clean-energy leader. Gov. Ted Kulongoski offered support of the venture and the use of business-energy tax credits as incentives for similar enterprises.


"The governor is very excited about an on-the-ground project like this," says Dave Vant Hof, the governor's sustainability policy adviser. "He's made it clear that he wants to move Oregon to the head of the class when it comes to alternative energy use, and this would be a great example."


Murphy says the Habilitation Center's long-range plans include producing solar panels that it could sell to local companies.


"Our concept is to have a benign power plant on the roof of our manufacturing plant," he says. "Down the road, we'd like to see hundreds of businesses doing the same thing."


 


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