Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon Portland Community College

PCC saving money and reducing carbon emissions through partnership

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Red Prairie Community Solar Project

Red Prairie Community Solar Project.

Portland Community College is spreading the word to its staff and the local community, who want to reduce their electricity bills and carbon footprint by joining the Oregon Community Solar Program. According to Oregon Shines, all Portland General Electric and Pacific Power customers are eligible to participate, including homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofits.

During the month of February, Oregon Shines will make a $25 donation to a PCC scholarship that supports students studying renewable energy for each new subscriber that references PCC when they sign up.

For more information, visit www.oregonshines.com.

In the fall of 2020 PCC took a major step toward reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by enrolling in the Oregon Community Solar Program. Two years later, the college is now racking up carbon and cost savings, and inviting the public to follow its lead. Through a special February promotion with Oregon Shines, new residential subscribers referencing PCC will be contributing to a scholarship supporting students studying renewable energy at the college, while also enjoying great cost and carbon saving benefits from the program.

solar panels.
Sustainability at PCC
  • The college has strengthened its commitments to sustainability and carbon neutrality since 2006, setting a goal of being carbon neutral by 2040. It recently completed its third version of its climate action plan in 2022 to focus on social justice components.

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PCC’s 2021 Climate Action Plan charts the course for the campus to become carbon neutral by 2040 – a goal that is even more ambitious than most state, national, and international climate change targets and treaties. Unified under a shared vision, the new plan builds off of work done to-date, outlining clear pathways for equity-focused climate action to be woven throughout operations, academics, student engagement and future planning. As part of this effort, the Sustainability Office staff have been hard at work looking for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to Sustainability

According to Sustainability Manager Briar Schoon, PCC has invested in on-site solar generation, but that alone is not enough to meet the college’s carbon neutrality goals. By joining the Oregon Community Solar Program, the college now receives clean energy credits from qualified solar farms throughout the state. Participating in the program requires no upfront or ongoing costs, and PCC receives a 5% discount on its share of the electricity produced by the community solar projects it supports.

“For a variety of reasons, including financial and spatial limitations, we need a multi-pronged approach to decarbonizing our energy footprint,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see our emissions and electricity costs heading in the right direction. The program saved us over $5,000 in its first year, and we’re just getting started.”

The Red Prairie Community Solar Project – the first of six different projects that the college has a 20-year subscription to – has now been online for just over one year. Located near Sheridan, the 2.2MW solar farm feeds clean electricity into the local Portland General Electric grid.

The utility tracks the energy production and provides Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and on-bill savings to each of the project’s subscribers. The college is one of twelve commercial customers and about fifty residential customers that share in the RECs and cost reductions created by the project. According to Oregon Shines, the Red Prairie project creates about 4,250 megawatt-hours of energy per year, or about enough to power 450 average households. PCC’s subscription accounts for just over one quarter of the total project.

The college is now looking forward to even greater savings in 2023 and the years ahead. In January of this year two additional PGE projects became operational, and by the fall of 2023 three Pacific Power projects are expected to come online, which will expand PCC’s total solar farm subscription size to 2,954 kW.

“When the remaining three projects are up and running, we’ll be saving over $30,000 and 3,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year. It’s just a huge win-win for our sustainability and financial goals,” added Schoon.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Interim Senior Director of Marketing & Communications at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section e... more »