2020 Annual Report - a year of innovation

Solar Oregon Annual Meeting — keynote from Hunter Lovins

Solar Oregon’s Annual Meeting on December 1st was a look back at a challenging but successful year for our nonprofit, and for the clean energy movement. You can watch the recording — including a keynote address on the Solar Dominance Hypothesis from world-renowned sustainable development leader Hunter Lovins — here. Read on for the full story!

In February of this year, Solar Oregon was gearing up for a spring and summer packed full of solar tours, place-based Solarize campaigns, and clean energy workshops. More specifically, these were tours, campaigns, and workshops planned to be held in libraries, crowded bars, people’s homes, and intimate winery tasting rooms. Food sharing, hand shaking, face-to-face interactions, the occasional sneeze — it’s the magic that makes Solar Oregon happen, and it’s these hallmarks of real community that drive clean energy adoption.

So, when in March the whole world froze and it became a public health imperative that people stay away from one another, things looked dire for Solar Oregon indeed. With anti-social behavior going viral, the economy also tanked, leaving nonprofits with rapidly desiccating streams of income. In the face of these significant challenges posed by COVID-19, Solar Oregon has managed to innovate to meet the times. We end 2020 with a larger team, exciting programs on the horizon to serve new audiences, and some powerful new virtual tools in our educational toolbox.

In-person events like this one in February are no longer possible, but that hasn’t stopped Solar Oregon

Our first innovation was transitioning our workshops entirely to the Zoom webinar platform. Starting in March, we have delivered 17 webinars, with an average live attendance of 50 and a total of 2156 views afterward on YouTube.

Webinars work for panel discussions and Basics of Solar workshops, but how do you have a virtual tour? Well, Solar Oregon now knows! Our two biggest annual events are our Solar Winery Tour fundraiser and our Go Zero Tour featuring zero energy homes. Typically we’re loading a hundred people onto eco-buses and heading out to wine country to tour solar and sip Pinot in May, and then walking/biking to zero energy homes and crowding into living rooms in October. With neither of these options available, we ventured fearlessly into the uncharted waters of large virtual tours. After several months of logistical problem-solving, what was the result? Nearly fifty happy campers tasted wine in their own living rooms from three of Oregon’s top wineries, helping to fund the educational programming that we offer year-round. In October, we hosted a state-wide virtual Go Zero Tour, with eight zero energy homes that our audience members could explore through two live tour webinars and a multimedia tour website. Make sure to check out the website, which endures as a high-quality educational tool:

In September, Solar Oregon welcomed Pramodh Jacob and Kate Ayres to our nonprofit family as Americorps members. Even in their first few months they have achieved great things, and we are thrilled to have them. Kate, originally from Monmouth, OR, is helping to lead Solar Oregon’s rural and agricultural solar programs. In 2021 she’ll be leading a Solar Agricultural Tour, developing our rural peer-to-peer energy education program, and delivering Basics of Solar webinars across the state. Pramodh came to Solar Oregon from Virginia, and is helping to lead our communications and Basics of Solar programs.

With the strains on our energy system evident from planned power shutoffs during this unprecedented fire season and the clean energy transformation rapidly accelerating, Solar Oregon’s programming is needed more than ever in 2021. In the early part of the year we will be delivering virtual Solarize campaigns in Hood River County, Milwuakie, and Hillsboro. We’ll be making connections that drive the adoption of clean energy through a reinvented and reinvigorated Peer-to-Peer education program. We‘ll be increasing our programming for rural communities who are hardest hit by fire and unstable electrical service. We’ll be educating on Oregon’s newly implemented Community Solar Program, and pursuing innovative Solarize campaigns to meet community energy needs across the state. And beyond all of this we’ll be looking forward to our two large solar tours in the late summer and fall, which we hope to host in person once the COVID health crisis no-longer presents a danger to our community.

We wish all Oregonians well during these difficult times, and we look forward to continuing our clean energy journey together. If you are interested in supporting Solar Oregon’s educational programs, please consider donating or becoming a member.