By Michael W. Kahn | ECT Staff WriterPublished: May 12th, 2014
Electric cooperative leaders were front and center when President Obama unveiled a major solar energy initiative.
President Obama mentioned how rural electric cooperatives are using solar during a May 9 speech in Mountain View, Calif. (Photo By: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/Newscom)
Bob Marshall, general manager of Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Co-op, David Gottula, general manager of Okanogan County Electric Co-op, and Kevin Short, general manager of Anza Electric Cooperative, joined the president at a May 9 event in Mountain View, Calif.
“Today, no matter where you live or where you do business, solar is getting cheaper and it’s getting easier to use than before. And with more businesses and rural cooperatives and homes choosing solar, prices keep coming down, manufacturers keep getting more innovative, and more jobs are created,” Obama told the crowd inside a Wal-Mart that has solar panels on the roof.
In a statement, the White House noted, “Across the country, member-owned, not-for-profit rural electric cooperatives are deploying a variety of solar options, including more than 50 community solar projects.
“Today, America’s electric cooperatives are announcing 199 rural electric co-ops in 27 states and American Samoa are planning solar installations that will provide over 150 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2020,” the statement added.
The two co-ops represented at the event are already incorporating cost-effective, reliable solar into their systems.
“Plumas-Sierra has three new programs that we are rolling out,” said Marshall, who had a chat with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz during the event. “The biggest is a 2-MW solar project that we are implementing with the U.S. Army.” The Portola, Calif.-based co-op will own the solar system, which will be at the Sierra Army Depot in Herlong, Calif.
“We are also about to roll out a community solar and roof-top solar program in the next few months,” Marshall said. “We believe that we can offer a better value than the third party providers.”
At Winthrop, Wash.-based Okanogan County Electric Co-op, Gottula noted that the Methow Valley “enjoys approximately 188 predominately sunny days each year, which, coupled with a strong interest in solar within our community, has led to a relatively high concentration of solar generation our valley.”
Almost two-thirds of OCEC’s annual 165,000 kilowatt-hours of solar come from residential systems that feed excess energy into the grid when it’s sunny, and draw from the grid at other times.
“Drive along just about any open area in the Valley and you are likely to see arrays of solar panels,” said Paul Taylor, president of the OCEC board.
The co-op also has two community solar projects, one of which is at its headquarters.
Marshall and Gottula shared the stage with Obama barely three weeks after another group of co-op leaders attended the White House Solar Summit.
NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson noted that co-ops are “leveraging the benefits of cost-effective solar for their consumer-members.”
“True to the principle of putting members first,” Emerson said, “co-ops are leading in the development of community solar, an innovation that allows more consumers access to the benefits of solar.”
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