On the Agenda…

Energy Equity = Affordable Housing with Community Solar

We have good support for an initiative to work for affordable housing with community solar here in Union County. The County has voiced interest in the effort, and the Oregon Trail Electric Co-Op has also. Two long-time ORA members with business backgrounds and experience in developing renewable energy are part of the team as well.

Our first try at funding from the Meyer Memorial Trust did not pan out. That’s not surprising since the Trust had $13.5 million in requests for a $3.5 million pot of money. Most of it went to capital projects that would build housing this coming year. Our request was a for long-term effort: we asked for grant money to develop a business plan involving stakeholders, one that would put cash into the pocket of renters and/or homeowners by giving them a share in those solar panels, or by lowering their energy bills, or both.

Turns out we’re not the only ones with that idea. We’ll be convening the team for a briefing on those models and how they might be put to use here in Northeast Oregon.

Moving Forward on Oil-by Rail

Union Pacific rail lines in the Northwestern United States

Union Pacific rail lines in the Northwestern United States

The powerful explosion of oil tanker cars in Mosier, Oregon happened on a Union Pacific rail line. UP has rail lines that run through this part of Eastern Oregon and into the Columbia River Gorge (see the accompanying map). Almost two years ago, ORA shone a bright light on the potential danger from oil-by-rail transport. That gave us credibility and it led to a phone call from the La Grande, Oregon Observer even as the accident in Mosier was still unfolding. Provided with this opportunity, Oregon Rural Action raised the possibility of greatly increased oil-by-rail traffic in the future, and for the emergency preparedness resources that will be needed in the event of a derailment in this part of the State.

ORA has talked about expanding the effort and we’ll be working with granting organizations that have an interest in the increasing reach of these pipelines-on-rails and the damage they can do.

B2H – Proposed Boardman to Hemingway 500 KV Powerline

Proposed path of the Boardman to Hemignway 500 KV line through UnionCounty.

The proposed path of the Boardman to Hemignway 500 KV line through Union County.

The 100 year-old U.S. power grid will look very different in the future. The rapid rise of renewable energy, the plummeting price of photo-voltaics, the quickly evolving storage landscape, and the adoption of campus scale microgrids are all signs of impending change.

A re-worked electric grid means that the proposed 500 KV Boardman-to-Hemingway powerline may never be cost-effective and it might burden rate-payers for decades. The Environmental Impact Statement for the line is due out before the end of the year. This is an issue that all of us might want to comment on given its impact here in Eastern Oregon.