A new solar energy array has been planned for construction atop the City of Hood River public works building on 18th Street.

Making Energy Work in Rural Oregon team, led by Sustainable Northwest, in partnership with Hood River, Lake, and Douglas Counties, announced Wednesday they were selected among the winners of the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative’s “Solar in Your Community Challenge,” a $5 million competition aimed at expanding solar electricity access.

Awarded up to $50,000 in cash and $10,000 in technical assistance, Making Energy Work will use the money to guide and build community solar projects on non-profit and municipal buildings in target communities.

“We are thrilled that our team was selected to join the challenge,” said Lee Rahr, energy program director of Sustainable Northwest. “We will work with our partner communities to advance Oregon’s emerging community solar models.”

Rahr noted that benefits from solar development typically go to urban communities, while rural communities “continue to fall behind.”

The group’s first project will be a 30-kilowatt community-financed solar array installed in Hood River, in partnership with the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative (OCPC) and the City of Hood River. OCPC’s cooperative-ownership model is based on 2014 legislation enacted by the Oregon legislature, which allows residents to finance renewable energy via clean energy projects.

City Public Works Director Mark Lago said, “We are working to ensure the benefits of community solar stay in Hood River. By investing in community solar, the city can help create new jobs, and increase tax revenue, while lowering the city’s energy costs and carbon output.”

The Hood River Public Works Building solar system, installed by Common Energy, is projected to save the city about $11,000 in electric costs in the first 10 years, and nearly $97,000 over 25 years.

“Through OCPC, community members may now participate in Hood River’s first community solar project, which will provide the city’s Public Works Building with more than half of its electricity from the sun,” said Joe Giordano of Hood River, OCPC board member.

For more information about the project, visit www.oregoncleanpower.coop.

“This is about more than just clean energy,” says Dan Orzech, OCPC general manager. “It’s about investing in your community. People are interested in alternatives to Wall Street. They’re looking for ways to put their money to work closer to home.”

The Making Energy Work in Rural Oregon team plans to complete 10 projects by the end of 2018, focusing on energy development in rural communities, driving socioeconomic and ecological benefits in otherwise underrepresented areas.