by Sara Holzknecht

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The turbulent events of this year continue to drive home the need for rapid decarbonization. …


Creating a sustainably focused community in inner SE Portland, 34 residential units go fully net zero in 8 years

Kailash Ecovillage began as the run down Cabana apartment complex in inner SE Portland in 2007. Built in 1959 on 0.9 acres as a high end 32-unit apartment development, it had fallen into disrepair and one quarter of the units were unlivable. The original community spaces, including a party room and tropically themed bar, billiard hall, and swimming pool, had long been boarded up or closed down.

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View of property in 2011 a few years before starting solar

My wife Maitri and I dreamed of taking our sustainable living journey, which until then had been in single family dwellings, to the next level: creating a sustainably focused community. We had remodeled several residences with rainwater harvesting, compost toilets, and energy efficiency in mind. We investigated cohousing but no such developments were available in the SE area. So when we came across this property for sale we figured we could start our own community. Community living has the advantage of being able to easily share many resources while developing closer relationships among neighbors. …


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Solar on the main house

When I retired from my almost 40 years as a passive solar home designer, activist, and educator, with the prospect of time and singular focus, I was eager to embark on a project of my own…a SOLAR project of course. And so, Fenlake Farm was born. Fenlake Farm is a five-acre, orchard/woodlands located near the foothills of the Cascade Range within Oregon’s Willamette Valley. To keep building costs low, we used a hybrid of pre-fabricated and/or self-built structures.

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Fenlake Farm during construction

Since the pre-fab sections (customized barns from TUFF-SHED) of the buildings were 2 x 4 wall construction (2x6 ceilings), we used high density soy foam insulation to achieve highest possible R-values and air-infiltration levels. The house has 75 sq ft of south facing window area, and foundations are all concrete slab with some of the house slab incorporating a convection system. …


The Pollastrinis’ Solar + Electric Vehicle Story

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Fred in front of his home solar system in Sandy, OR

I’ve been interested in protecting and restoring the environment for decades. For years I thought that, even with incentives, solar panels on our house were way beyond our low budget. Early in 2012, we received a post card from a local Sandy company, ‘Energy Unlimited’, advertising solar installation. It convinced me to give them a call. They explained the incentives that were available and on August 1 2012 we went online with a system that covered our power bill.

In the last few years. I’ve been following the progress of Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs). I thought that an all electric vehicle was way beyond our low budget, at least until they were plentiful and we could get a reasonably priced old used one a bunch of years down the road. I was surprised again. Suggestions from our friends Gary and Susan of ‘Green Living Journal’ got me reading ‘Forth’s’ newsletter where I learned about the ‘Charge Ahead’ incentive for used BEVs. Gary and Susan also told me about ‘Platt Auto’, the used electric car dealer, where in March of 2019, we bought a 2015 Leaf, which we love of course but brought our power bill up from zero. Now we are planning to expand our roof solar system to bring our power bill back to zero. …


I suppose you can say my solar journey started when I was a kid, when I learned about the universe, galaxies, and stars. This fascination propelled me into the study of Physics throughout my youth. After graduating from college, I looked for jobs in only two industries, the solar industry and the software industry. As fate would have it, I ended up in the software industry for 14 years. While I do not regret this path, a large part of me was still fascinated by the stars, that which power the universe.

When I met my wife, Lotus, I discovered that we shared this fascination with stars, though hers from a very different background. Lotus’s extensive experience in outdoor education ignited many exciting conversations about plants, biology, and ecology. Of course, the stars, especially our sun, plays a big part in nurturing the ecosystems of our planet. …


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Six new solar panels on south facing roof of main house. To the right and left of the older panels

Robin Cash and I were regular attendees at the Net Zero talks sponsored by Solar Oregon many years ago. We learned a lot about solar panels and energy efficiency. Robin always dreamed about building a house, especially an energy efficient one where we can stay warm without running up high energy bills. We decided to build an all-electric Passive House and in 2011 contracted with Green Hammer to build it. A 3000 gallon underground cistern and a water filtration system, that allowed for in-house use of rainwater, was installed as well. We moved in August 2012.

Also in 2012 we signed a twenty-year Power Purchase Agreement with SunRun to install fourteen Solar World 235 watt solar panels (3.29 Kw) on the south side of our roof and a Fronius IG Plus inverter attached to the west side of the house. R&S Energy was the installer. The panels were installed June 2012. We paid $6000 upfront and recouped it through four yearly $1500 state tax credits. SunRun received the Energy Trust of Oregon money and the Federal tax credit. …


By Joe Wachunas, Solar Oregon

On the journey to making our homes money savers and climate champions, water heating has always been a stumbling block. While there are easy ways to use hot water efficiently (like the low-flow shower heads we featured in this Go Zero Hack), it’s a challenge to heat water without polluting.

The issue is that, until recently, heating anything almost always meant burning something. And burning things creates pollution. Let’s call this dilemma, “the heating conundrum.”

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All types of heating, including water heating, face this conundrum. For example, most people today still use the early generation, archaic technologies of our parents and grandparents They either…


This year, Solar Oregon is introducing a new series entitled “Go Zero Hacks, Ways to Fight Climate Change from your home.” We want to talk about the many small things we common folks can do to save energy and money while at the same time do our share to solve this challenge of our time.

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The lowly shower head is a gold mine for money and energy savings.

Our First Goal Zero Hack is something that seems small and unimportant but holds oodles of promise for energy efficiency — the lowly shower head.

Yes — using a water efficient shower head is a hidden, mammoth energy saver that is both easy and inexpensive to install. …


By Joe Wachunas

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Children at Hang Dry For Climate Change Event in August 2019

At Solar Oregon we’ve spent 2019 exploring the balance between reviving and running an organization and seeking to capture the imagination of the community and drive action towards resolving some of the challenges of our time.

Organizational revival was our first necessity this year. In 40 years of existence, any non-profit will travel through highs and lows and Solar Oregon has spent the last few years rebuilding from a particularly challenging time. Thankfully, we had a talented board that was able to keep the organization going.

Which is where we found ourselves at the beginning of 2019. An non-profit with an impressive 40 year history and little funding, but no lack of enthusiasm, ideas and passion, ready to be called back to life and do its part to meet the crises of our time. …


By Bridget Callahan

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What’s the value of community solar?

Community solar is coming soon to customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, and Idaho Power. …

Solar Oregon

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