Central Lincoln will soon offer new energy program


Solar panels, like those recently installed on the Central Lincoln building, will be available for ‘purchase’

Oct. 2, 2019 — The Central People’s Lincoln Utility District is in the business of supplying power to its customers. Central Lincoln is a not-for-profit business. In 1940, residents of central Lincoln County voted for dependable, affordable, publicly-owned electricity, creating a People’s Utility District, a not-for-profit local governmental entity providing electricity to the public.

The power distributed by Central Lincoln is generated by the constant flow of the Columbia River, which has been damned, and the hydroelectric energy produced is used to generate the electricity used in Florence.

The Army Corps of Engineers built the dam in the 1930s and, at the time, the project was the largest water impoundment project in the nation. The dam was built with the dual purpose of harnessing the mighty Columbia River as well as providing jobs for the many who were unemployed as a result of the great depression.

Using a renewable source of power — in this case water — has informed the manner in which Central Lincoln approaches the overall issue of renewable energy.

The business currently has in place a renewable energy program that provides incentives to homeowners installing solar, wind and hydro energy systems that meet certain technical requirements for system compatibility.

These incentives vary, depending on the type of system installed, and each privately owned renewable system must be approved by Central Lincoln before installation.

That focus on allowing Central Lincoln customers to participate in a renewable energy program is about to expand with the introduction of a new program that will be based in Florence.

Information provided in the company newsletter “Boardlines,” which are messages from Central Lincoln Board Members, describes the impetus for the new program and how it is different in a number of ways from those already in place.

“Some customers can’t install solar because they don’t own the home they live in; or the roof isn’t robust enough to support a solar panel system; or the orientation of the home isn’t suited for solar; or there are too many trees obscuring their roofs,” said the newsletter, which states that Central Lincoln was looking for a way to support those who wanted to buy solar power and investigated options at the company’s Newport location before settling on the two Central Lincoln buildings in Florence.

The buildings, located at the corner of Highway 126 and Highway 101, were selected as the location at which a number of individual solar panels would be installed. The roofs of the buildings were oriented properly, and the structures themselves were solid and installation was relatively straight forward.

Boardlines stateed that customers will be able to “buy” up to five panels for approximately $330 each. A percentage of the energy output generated by the panels will be credited to their account and will be used to offset in-home usage charges. The rate of return on the investment for a panel will vary, depending on weather conditions, which are extremely variable in this area. Estimates provided by Central Lincoln calculate a payback timeline of 9 to 10 years.

Chris Chandler, Public Affairs Manager for Central Lincoln, said she is pleased the nonprofit will be offering this opportunity to customers but wants everyone in the district to have the same chance to purchase the limited number of panels available.

“We ask that customers wait to receive a postcard in the mail from Central Lincoln after Oct. 21, before contacting us. In order to give all customers the same opportunity to participate, we will not have information available prior to that time,” Chandler explained in an email to Siuslaw News. “There will be two ways customers can apply to participate: an online application and by coming into one of our offices.”

Central Lincoln also encourages customers who heat their homes with electricity to upgrade the insulation, windows and exterior doors as they may qualify for rebates, although some restrictions apply.

For more information on how customers can participate in the upcoming Central Lincoln solar panel project, check for an official notification in your mail, scheduled to be sent out near the end of October.

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