June 26th, 2008 | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Multnomah County, Environment

Multnomah County Smiles, Seals Megawatt Solar Deal, Returns to Bitter Fate


For a brief window of time, it was all sunshine at Multnomah County headquarters this morning as the board of commissioners unanimously approved a deal for the largest solar-energy project in Oregon.

"We get a lot of heat for the things that we don't do right," said Multnomah County Chairman Ted Wheeler. "This is one of the things that we do do right."

Even the City of Portland sent an ambassador to congratulate the county. Long thought of as the front-runner for sustainability in the region, the city now is eclipsed by the county on solar energy.

"It's always nice when we can beat you guys," Wheeler told David Tooze, a senior energy specialist for the city's Office of Sustainable Development.

"You'd better hurry, because we're nipping at your heel," Tooze replied.

As reported in WW, the agreement between the county and Maryland-based solar-energy provider SunEdison will place solar panels on top of three county buildings by the end of this year.

In exchange for the rooftop real estate, SunEdison will sell the one megawatt of energy produced back to the county at below-market rates for 20 years. The deal will cost the county nothing and will save money on electricity, says Commissioner Jeff Cogen, who spearheaded the agreement.

Representatives from SunEdison and the Energy Trust of Oregon, which helped advise Cogen on the agreement, were all smiles.

"Every government should be doing what you're doing — bundling your buildings," said Peter West, director or renewable energy programs at the Energy Trust.

But the good times ceased immediately after the solar vote, and the commissioners returned to the sinking-ship atmosphere that pervades at the county.

The latest bad news: a presentation by the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission on the astronomical costs of the two mandatory-minimum crime bills on the November ballot.

Wheeler summed up the news as the commission adjourned:

"That was depressing."
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