Sunlight Solar ~ Powering Bend’s Future Amidst Rising Energy Costs


(Photo courtesy Sunlight Solar)

In the heart of Bend, a revolution is quietly powering up, propelled by sunshine and an increasing demand for sustainable energy solutions. Sunlight Solar, the original solar company in Bend, remains at the forefront of the industry’s transformation. Paul Israel, founder and president, shares an insightful look into how the landscape of solar energy is evolving in Bend and Central Oregon.

The region’s solar energy market is experiencing remarkable growth, not only because of the increase in new construction but particularly due to the significant trend of these new buildings adopting solar panels. “The fact that so much of the new construction is going solar is truly fantastic,” notes Israel. This shift towards solar energy is increasingly becoming a central topic of conversation, especially with the rising costs of traditional power highlighting the financial benefits of solar.

Pacific Power customers witnessed a substantial 21% rate increase in 2023, and residential customers saw, on average, a 12.9% increase in rates in 2024, with another similar increase expected in 2025. This surge, primarily driven by the escalating costs associated with managing wildfire risks and rising costs at Pacific Power, makes the case for solar energy more compelling than ever. Consequently, more residents and businesses are turning to solar as both an eco-friendly and economically wise option.

In the face of rising energy costs and environmental concerns, Israel emphasizes the immediate benefits of solar energy. “And the last two years have been huge regarding rate increases. And it’s gonna keep going,” he states. Paul passionately believes in the power of individual action to combat global warming: “You want to be more environmentally friendly, go solar!” Highlighting the ease of installation with Sunlight Solar, he adds, “It takes just a few days to transition to solar, depending on your system’s complexity. It’s a swift and straightforward process.” This emphasis on local, sustainable energy solutions marks a vital step in addressing climate change.

Central Oregon’s advantageous geography — receiving an average of 20 to 30% more sunshine than the Willamette Valley region — combined with state incentives further bolsters the case for solar power. The Energy Trust of Oregon and the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) are currently offering rebates and incentives. Additionally, homeowners can leverage a federal tax credit to deduct 30% of solar installation costs from their federal taxes, substantially decreasing tax liability.

The Energy Trust of Oregon offers a $450 rebate for Pacific Power customers installing a solar electric system. This rebate will sunset sometime in 2024, so if you’re considering solar, act soon to take advantage of this program. The ODOE may also provide rebates for solar electric system installations, with amounts varying based on income level — categorized as either low-to-moderate or not income-restricted — and electricity provider. In Central Oregon, eligible electricity providers include Pacific Power, Midstate Electric Cooperative, and Central Electric Cooperative, making many residents potential beneficiaries of this rebate program.

The financial benefits of solar energy are clearly visible, especially with rising power costs, yet its advantages extend beyond the economic. Alongside solar energy’s positive environmental impact, the durability and resilience of the systems add significant value. With a 25-year warranty on the panels and the capacity to retain 92% of their power by year 25, they are built to last. Israel also highlights the industry’s advancements in predicting solar output. Software now provides precise forecasts, even considering weather variations and shading, accurate to within plus or minus 5%. This accuracy and real-time monitoring via apps maximizes solar investments and guarantees efficiency.

Homeowners, in particular, have also shown a growing interest in solar batteries, driven by a desire for resiliency and the increasing threat of wildfires and adverse weather in Central Oregon. Israel remarks, “The popularity of batteries, especially for their resiliency, is evident during challenging weather. With battery backup, homes could maintain heating during periods of extreme cold despite a potential grid outage. Although the initial investment for a battery system is significant — around $20,000 installed — incentives are available to help reduce these costs.”

Sunlight Solar’s involvement with commercial projects, both private and public — such as the solar installation at Deschutes Public Library in Redmond — showcases the expanding appeal of solar energy solutions. Oregon state laws encourage the move toward solar energy in commercial spaces, mandating that 1.5% of public building construction costs be allocated to green energy technologies.

This shift is bolstered by the economic benefits of solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), where developers install and manage solar systems on properties, allowing owners to purchase the generated electricity at a fixed rate for a specified period. This arrangement can offer businesses a cost-effective and sustainable energy solution without the upfront expense of installing a solar system.

Despite optimistic growth, the discontinuance of certain rebates and incentives may affect potential solar customers’ decisions. Additionally, the rise in electric vehicles (EVs) and a shift from gas appliances are reshaping the energy landscape. This has led to solar customers adding panels to power their EVs, embracing ‘pumping their own gas’ from home. These developments underscore the necessity for continuous innovation and support in the solar sector to meet the evolving demands of a sustainably powered lifestyle.

As Bend and Central Oregon continue to navigate the complexities of energy consumption and sustainability, the role of solar energy becomes ever more critical. With over three decades of experience, Sunlight Solar exemplifies the potential for solar to mitigate rising energy costs and contribute significantly to the region’s environmental sustainability goals. With the right mix of policy support, community engagement, and technological advancements, the future of solar in Bend shines brightly, promising a cleaner, more resilient energy landscape for future generations.


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