Bend's climate is warming and the rate is accelerating, according to data from the National Weather Service. With that information in hand, climate change experts will gather in Bend October 3-4 to motivate people to take action. Key topics include the economics of going green and how businesses benefit by reducing their carbon footprint.
The Source Weekly spoke with several of the headline speakers in advance of the conference:
Worthy Brewing – An Emphasis
Worthy Brewing's founder Roger Worthington says his business is saving money with its many green initiatives. The brewery uses solar panels to generate its own power while helping to reduce greenhouse pollutants. He says Worthy has received tax credits, rebates and depreciation benefits that have reduced up-front costs. On the back end, he says the power company is paying Worthy thousands of dollars a year for sending power to the overall grid.
Worthy has a 50 Kilowatt solar panel system and a hot water collector system that pre-heats its water on the roof. He estimates $10,000 a year in energy savings from Pacific Power which depends—to a large extent—on coal.
Solar also heats its potable water, reducing reliance on natural gas. In all, Worthington estimates his brewery reduces carbon emissions by 100,000 pounds of CO2 annually.
"Squandering is a sin," says Worthington. So how to get started? Worthington says, "Just do it. Get ahead of the curve. Invest voluntarily before it's mandated out of necessity. Show your customers and community that you care, and be a role model. You wouldn't toss your litter on your front yard. Why would you knowingly litter the air and water with waste by-products?"
A Solar Resurgence
Jeff Bissonnette is Executive Director of Oregon Energy Solar Industries Association, promoting solar options throughout Oregon. Solar was seen as a fringe phenomenon that served off-grid needs for many years, he says. "Solar isn't alternative anymore. It's entering the mainstream." He says the price has been dropping significantly, making it a real option for both large and small operations.
The average home system today has a production capacity of between 4 and 5 kilowatts, which can cover up to about 60 percent of energy needs per year. "You pay for a lot of energy upfront." He estimates a return on investment at about 7 to 9 years on average. "It's a long-term investment that adds value to the home. After that, it's basically free energy as long as the sun shines."
Bissonnette says that, with reduced costs, the solar business is growing. He says there are about 150 companies that are participating within the industry, employing approximately 3,000 people in Oregon. And major solar companies are exploring installation of large solar complexes in Eastern Oregon.
One 8-megawatt facility will soon open near Lakeview, which could power about 4,000 homes. Another planned near the Lakeview airport would be much larger at 45 megawatts. "Oregon is beginning to hit its stride with solar power," he says.
Oregon's Largest Community
Jeff Beaman of Central Electric Cooperative in Bend/Redmond says Central Oregon is one of the most viable locations for solar power in the state, with abundant sunshine and relatively mild temperatures. The Cooperative operates the largest community solar project in Oregon with 700 Solar World panel, all manufactured in Oregon. Its nearly 200,000 watt facility can be expanded to 500,000 watts as needed. Cost, however, is still a hurdle and the project is funded entirely by co-op members who voluntarily support the promotion of renewable energy.
Weather & Climate Trends
Another keynoter is meteorologist Michael Murphy, a National Weather Service climate program leader. Based in Pendleton, Murphy cites studies showing temperatures rising in the Pacific Northwest and Bend. "Temperatures increased across the Northwest from 1895 to 2011 with a regional average warming of about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit," he says. Most of that has occurred since 1975. "Since 1975 the annual mean temperature has risen 0.26 degrees Fahrenheit per decade at Bend, or about 1.04 degrees Fahrenheit of total warming."
He says that overnight low temperatures are rising the fastest over the past century in and around Bend while average temperatures, including daytime high temperatures, have held steady or have only begun to rise slowly since 1975. But, at that current rate of increase—which forecasters expect to accelerate—that would equate to a 2 degree rise in average temperatures over current levels by the year 2100.
Murphy says the trend toward warmer overnight low temperatures would have a profound impact on the region. "This can certainly have an impact on local winter recreation. More rain may fall through the winter months, with higher snow levels, even during mid-winter, impacting the lower elevation ski areas, sno-parks, and snow mobile trails."
Registration for the conference, taking place at the Mt. Bachelor Village Conference Center, can be completed online at 350deschutes.org. The full cost includes all presentations for $25 per individual—or register for evening keynotes from 7-8:30pm for $10. Students with ID are free.