On Friday, the owners of the Waverly Greens apartment complex in Milwaukie unveiled Oregon's largest solar array to be installed on multifamily housing.
The 400-kilowatt solar project is mounted on 13 different apartment buildings and will generate enough renewable electricity to power about 38 homes. However, their electricity will actually be used for things like lighting and elevators in the common areas of the apartment buildings.
"I've always been an environmentalist," said owner Scott Wyse, who said the project includes as many solar panels as they could fit on the rooftops. "When we started looking at it, it seemed like we have a lot of roof out here and why not do solar on a big scale instead of a small scale."
Waverly Greens worked with the nonprofit Energy Trust on a wide array of energy-saving upgrades to its buildings and units in addition to the solar installation. The company received $93,744 from Energy Trust, which offers rebates for energy efficiency projects, to help make the upgrades more affordable.
The project also includes the addition of an electric vehicle and several charging stations that will tap the power generated by the solar panels.
Michael Colgrove, executive director of the Energy Trust of Oregon, says the expansive rooftops of apartment buildings hold huge potential for community solar development where the power generated is shared.
"One of the things we hope to see with community solar is that you might get multifamily property owners stepping up to be sites for that," he said. "If you've got the right roof configurations and you can do that it's a great place for developments to go — especially if it's your tenants who are going to be the subscribers."
Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba attended the unveiling on Friday, noting that the project fits well with the city's commitments to reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming and the extreme weather, species extinctions and wildfires that come along with it.
“Milwaukie is thrilled that our largest apartment complex has joined us in our efforts to combat climate catastrophe,” Gamba said. “The Wyse family have been great community partners on many things. I would challenge all businesses to explore the good business sense that improving energy efficiency and adding significant solar make.”