Explore solar solutions for all

PHOTO: Temple Beth Shalom installed solar panels with battery storage this year. The he MillieWatts Solar Project was a tribute to Millie Estrin, z"l, and an inspiration go the Oregon Interfaith Solar Campaign. (See story below).

The Climate Action Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and Oregon Interfaith Solar Campaign Present: Solar Energy Information Meeting
WHY: To raise awareness of the issue of climate change and available solutions for both organizations and individuals.
WHEN/WHERE: 5 pm, Dec. 8, on Zoom
EMAIL: strategicsolarguy@gmail.com for link

Explore solar solutions for all

The Oregon Interfaith Solar Campaign has a two-pronged plan to expand solar energy in the state by both houses of worship and individuals.
Inspired in part by the solar installation at Temple Beth Sholom in Salem (see story below), the interfaith group has gathered resources to expand the use of solar power by congregations. The campaign collaborates with synagogues, churches, mosques and other houses of worship to help them find funding and other resources to add solar projects to their buildings.
“Many congregations start to move in that direction, and then they get bids and get sticker shock and put solar on the back burner,” says Lou Stagnitto, Project Manager of OIS (oregoninterfaithsolar.org). “We can help them find funding sources people are not aware of.”
In collaboration with CollectiveSuin LLC, OIS helps congregations access tax incentives. Other funding options include programs from the Energy Trust of Oregon and grants from utilities such as Portland General Electric.
Temple Beth Shalom received a PGE grant to include battery backup in their solar project, which enables the synagogue to serve as a resilience center during extended power outages.
“They’re one of our inspirations, and a lot of these religious communities are looking to be centers of resilience in the face of natural disaster,” says Stagnitto. “What that means is that when and if the grid goes down, they will have some reserve energy that can power some parts of the building.”
He says that power allows the congregation to provide resources such as refrigeration for medicine and foods, meal preparation and warm shelter after a natural disaster.

In addition, OIS is raising awareness about the Community Solar project created by the Oregon Legislature, which gives homeowners, renters, nonprofits and businesses discounts for subscribing to a solar project in their area. Community Solar is solar energy that is generated from a central location and shared by multiple owners or subscribers, similar to CSAs for farm produce.
Customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power and Idaho Power can subscribe and save 5% (40% for low-income subscribers) on the cost of their power that is offset by a local solar project. For more information and to sign up, visit Community Solar at oregoncsp.org.
“People feel hopeless or hope that business and government will solve the problem (climate change),” says Stagnitto. “Certainly, both of those entities are working toward that, though not quite as fast as we’d like them to. … Community Solar empowers people to feel like they’re doing something impactful to help solve the problem.”
“Through the various religious communities that we’re talking to, we’re getting people to sign up and help us build that momentum,” says Stagnitto.

Solar at TBS a tribute to Millie


Temple Beth Sholom in Salem used grants, donations and creative funding to make the MillieWatts Solar Project a reality this year.
The installation of the 50.56-KW solar array paired with batteries for energy storage was completed early this year, but the discussions about the project began about five years ago. Millie Estrin, z”l, launched many environmental projects at the Temple, including installation of a bioswale and a recycling program, before she passed away in 2019.
The solar project, named in her honor, would mark her final environmental achievement at the congregation. Millie; the rabbi’s wife, Kim Herb; operations manager Amber Giddings; and other congregants wrote a successful grant proposal to Portland General Electric to help fund the solar installation. Since the grant criteria required the project benefit both the environment and the community, the storage batteries were included in the proposal.
The battery storage enables Beth Shalom to act as a resilience center in times of natural disaster or extended interruptions to the power grid. But the battery system also made the project much more expensive.
The congregation received incentives from the Energy Trust of Oregon and a grant from the Jerry & Helen Stern Grandchildren Fund at Oregon Jewish Community Foundation. Then the congregation turned to another congregant to help bridge the gap. Elliot Maltz is the Emeritus Professor of Marketing at Willamette University, who focuses on creating business models that create shared value.
“We had some funding, but we needed to figure out a funding mechanism to complete the project,” says Maltz. “I proposed we make this a really community-based effort with Millie as the inspiration. In addition to donations, we asked for loans – and the loans could be pretty small. It offered the opportunity for a wide range of community members to participate in funding the project.”
The Temple has an endowment devoted to infrastructure support but hoped not to tap into that.
“Between the loans and the donations and the grants, we were able to achieve enough funds that we didn’t need to use the endowment,” says Maltz.
Maltz also was approached by the Oregon Interfaith Solar Campaign to share the congregation’s successful project. The interfaith project manager calls Temple Beth Sholom an inspiration. Maltz will speak on a December Zoom program (see above) organized by the interfaith campaign and the Climate Action Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland.


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