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The Future of Building

A renewable shift, powered by wind and sun

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When imagining the future, the younger me dreamed of living like the Jetsons: flying cars, robots and gadgets performing every daily task. Instead we'll likely see fewer hyper-futuristic homes and cars, and more solar panel-lined roofs and wind turbines.

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I'm sure you've seen one of the few solar farms in Central Oregon, like the one south of Redmond, which produces enough energy for about 1,500 homes. We can expect to see more of these farms popping up around the state. According to the Redmond Spokesman, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced that the Rural Energy for America Program will loan up to $48.2 million for funding solar energy facilities in Deschutes, Klamath, Lake and Clackamas counties. Portland General Electric is building the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility, the first large scale renewable energy project in the nation, complete with wind turbines, solar panels and battery storage, expected to provide power to 105,000 homes. These facilities will offset the energy needed from fossil fuels and by using batteries for energy storage it alleviates the hurdle of the intermittent power supply that comes from wind and sunshine.

Coinciding with the construction of these new energy facilities, some fossil fuel plants will close. The Boardman Coal Plant in eastern Oregon is slated to close in less than two years and another coal power plant in Washington is set to turn off one of its burners in 2020 and close by 2025. Its former coal mine will become a 1,000-acre solar farm.

A recent article from NPR states that California has mandated starting January 2020, all new single family and multi-family homes under three stories will be required to install solar panels. These homes are expected to use 53 percent less energy than homes built under the standards set in 2016.

This new mandate has faced major scrutiny from developers and real estate professionals, some of whom say upfront costs of about $10,000 will slow a real estate market in which buyers already face high home prices. On the flip side, homeowners are anticipated to save more than $19,000 over the course of 30 years due to lower utility bills. These solar panels can be purchased outright or leased, or homeowners can enter into a power purchase agreement with developers. There's also an opportunity for communities to pool their resources for larger solar arrays instead of installation on individual homes.

Renewable energy is taking a foothold and gaining momentum around the globe. Large-scale installations are great, but we also need numerous small installations on individual homes, parking structures and building rooftops. Your home can and should be an energy producer. California has always been a trendsetter when it comes to policy, and Oregon has a ways to go before we see these types of mandates here, but this may be a sign of what's to come.


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