Oregon Solar Power

A useful resource website for everything about solar power in Oregon.

Oregon Solar

In our Oregon Solar Guide, we break down what you need to know about solar power in Oregon and answer the question, are solar panels worth it in Oregon? Feel free to skip to the section to learn more about it. You may also ask us a question and we'll reply asap. Here is our unbias opinion:

What Exactly Are Solar Panels?

Solar panels are used for personal items as small as a wristwatch and as vast as full sectors of public power grids. Due to the increasing demand for clean energy and sustainable, renewable energy, solar industries are thriving.

Solar panels are called photovoltaic (PV) cells, converting particles of sunlight, or photons, directly into electricity you can use. The actual PV cell is made up of semiconductors, which absorb the photons that are converted into regulated energy for electricity.

Solar panels come in different configurations, sizes, and power ratings. Individual cells are designed to fit together with other panels into an array that spreads across the surface area for best efficiency and in an order that either builds up the right voltage or ramps up the proper current.

Solar power systems have three main connected elements; a charge controller, the solar array, and a battery. The charge controller regulates the power and current between the solar array and the battery to make sure the right power is exchanged and stored.

Does Solar Work In Oregon?

Many assume that solar-powered energy is best reserved for the vast expanse of a dry, sunny desert or locations with extremely mild winters. For most, the Pacific Northwest wouldn’t be the first place they’d think of for the perfect weather for solar power, but the truth is solar energy is a much more flexible energy source than most realize, and with Oregon’s reductions in the cost of a solar installation and net metering plans, it’s easy to incorporate a residential solar system as part of a year-round cost-saving plan.

Oregon may not be the first place you’d think of to provide optimal weather for relying on solar power, but with costs right around the national average, Oregon’s seasonal advantages are a proven recipe for success. In fact, Portland is one of 20 cities using the highest capacity of solar panels in the U.S.

The Weather in Oregon Is Just Right

You might think of the perfect solar energy conditions being a bright sunny day, and while the full sun beating down on solar panels will generate strong, constant power, in many regions this comes with excessive heat, far beyond the optimal temperature, around 77°.

Oregon is known for its long, mild summer days. Solar panels operate the most efficiently in precisely the kind of cool summer weather we expect in Oregon. In fact, Oregon’s average temperature from May through October is in the mid-70s°.

Clouds are bad, but not a deal-breaker

On cloudy days, energy generated may be less, but even thick cloud cover doesn’t mean you’re relying solely on the public grid. Cities like Portland don’t produce as much solar power, but it’s still plenty to make solar a financially and environmentally viable solution because of the long summer days.

Those long Oregon sunny summers often generate more energy than you need, and under the right conditions, it can potentially cover costs for the entire winter season.
Solar irradiation occurs even with thick cloud cover, heavy storms, and when the moon is full.

Rain can be helpful by cleaning dust and debris from the panel surface. While snowfall does affect their ability to produce energy, they are still effective when there is an inch or less of snow accumulated.

Solar Powers Levels in Oregon

Despite the sunnier summer months in Oregon, the state isn’t the sunniest. The average monthly solar radiation level in Oregon of 4.2 kilowatt-hours per square meter per day. The following chart shows the average kilowatt-hours per meter squared per day for each month of the year. (data collected in Salem)

Solar Radiation Levels in Oregon

Month National Low Oregon Average National High
Dec 1.26 k/m/d 1.85 k/m/d 4.93 k/m/d
Nov 1.76 k/m/d 2.35 k/m/d 5.87 k/m/d
Oct 3.01 k/m/d 3.64 k/m/d 6.44 k/m/d
Sep 4.98 k/m/d 5.59 k/m/d 7.46 k/m/d
Aug 5.14 k/m/d 6.35 k/m/d 7.06 k/m/d
Jul 5.83 k/m/d 6.47 k/m/d 6.72 k/m/d
Jun 5.46 k/m/d 5.49 k/m/d 7.39 k/m/d
May 5.27 k/m/d 5.2 k/m/d 7.44 k/m/d
Apr 4.35 k/m/d 4.64 k/m/d 7.38 k/m/d
Mar 3.7 k/m/d 3.63 k/m/d 6.89 k/m/d
Feb 2.51 k/m/d 3.38 k/m/d 6.18 k/m/d
Jan 1.55 k/m/d 1.85 k/m/d 5.54 k/m/d

100 Percent Solar Powered Homes?

While a solar battery backup is good to have, it’s not required.

When people use a grid-tied system, they simply use their solar when it is producing enough energy and shift to using the regular grid throughout the night or during inclement weather. Even without a battery, you can still earn net credits by sending your excess power to the grid, but a battery backup for solar installations can reduce your reliance on the grid and serves as a more reliable service in case the grid loses power, providing your own backup.

The goal with net metering plans is to reach ‘net-zero,’ where you’re generating as much, or even more energy from your solar panels than what you use. This is then applied to months that are more overcast or during snowfall.

Yes, however, expect to pay double if not more than the cost of installing solar panels without batteries and just using net metering. But yes, it is possible.

Clouds are bad, but not a deal-breaker

On cloudy days, energy generated may be less, but even thick cloud cover doesn’t mean you’re relying solely on the public grid. Cities like Portland don’t produce as much solar power, but it’s still plenty to make solar a financially and environmentally viable solution because of the long summer days.

Those long Oregon sunny summers often generate more energy than you need, and under the right conditions, it can potentially cover costs for the entire winter season.
Solar irradiation occurs even with thick cloud cover, heavy storms, and when the moon is full.

Rain can be helpful by cleaning dust and debris from the panel surface. While snowfall does affect their ability to produce energy, they are still effective when there is an inch or less of snow accumulated.

Solar Incentives in Oregon for 2022

In Oregon, electric utility companies help you reduce your costs and increase efficiency, providing a source for tax incentives that make solar affordable for most homeowners. Oregonians are also able to get a 26% cut in installation costs from a federal tax credit to go towards solar panel installation.

The Energy Trust of Oregon provides the largest solar incentives for renewable energy in the state. If you are a customer of Portland General Electric or Pacific Power, you can receive significant savings when they install PV systems. These arrangements are made through contractors in the form of a solar rebate for residents who meet the minimum qualifications. 

Qualifications include:

#1 Solar panels in Oregon must be installed by a Solar Trade Ally registered by the Energy Trust of Oregon (ETO). To become a Trade Ally, the solar installers are rated on every solar panel installation by an inspector by the ETO.

#2 The roof must have at least 10 years of warranty life on it.

#3 The home must meet a minimum Total Solar Resource Fraction (TSRF) of 75%.

Understanding the “Net” in Net Metering

Oregon has a net metering law. This allows every utility customer the ability to generate their own electricity. By running your own solar power, you can reduce your electricity costs substantially.

Net metering requires the customer to have a new physical meter installed, but there’s more good news because your utility service provider will come to you and install what is called a bidirectional meter, or net meter, and they’ll do it for free. Now, while you’re generating your own solar power, your meter will calculate not only the energy you’re using from their grid but it will track the energy you’re producing and giving back to the grid.
Your monthly energy use costs will be offset, dependent on the amount of power your solar panels generate.

What you’re supplying back to the grid is subtracted from your grid use, and the net is the difference between the two.

"Earning" Credits to Offset You Bill

Roughly 60% of one’s annual energy is produced over the summer months with solar, so during this time, you’ll likely generate more energy than the rest of the year, building a surplus of your kilowatt-hours, which are then applied as credits later throughout the year. This rolling forward of energy credits may reduce your fees to where you are 100 percent solar-powered, only paying a standard service charge ($~15 per month). These incentives, along with the efficiency from solar electric power are making energy independence a real long-term example of sustainable renewable energy solutions.

A service charge is supports fixed costs such as maintenance, billing, and customer service, regardless of the energy used. This is a charge for having service available and is billed even if no electricity is used.

So, Are Solar Panels Worth It In Oregon? Yes!

From the weather to incentives and rebates, Oregon is the perfect state for the homeowner who wishes to take advantage of renewable energy, and solar power not only can help Oregonians become more self-sufficient, they enjoy the benefit of giving back to the power grid. Solar works when conditions are right and lets the user store up credits for those likely winter months; a win win for everyone.

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