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Efforts to 'Solarize Corvallis' lands its first local business, Block 15

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Solarize Corvallis, a joint project of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative, is finishing up its sixth roof panels project.

Block 15 Brewery & Taproom's location on Southwest Deschutes Street is the first business to add rooftop solar panels in a Solarize Corvallis project. The previous five recipients have been the Corvallis School District, the Old Mill Center and the Benton County Kalapuya Building in 2020, with Corvallis High School and the First United Methodist Church also adding panels this year.

The Southwest Deschutes Street pub is adding 98 kilowatts of solar power, enough to provide nearly 40% of the brewery’s power needs.

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Nick Arzner, who co-founded Block 15 with his wife, Kristen, noted the irony of flipping the switch on a solar project on or about the winter solstice, a day with the shortest amount of light.

The Arzners, who have operated the downtown Block 15 for 14 years and the south location for seven, were thinking solar when they began imagining the south location.

“We made sure that the design would accommodate solar, but we didn’t have the funds at the time,” Nick said. “It is an investment that will have an immediate affect on operations, with major savings on the life of the system.

“And we feel as a company that it’s important for us to reduce our carbon footprint. Plus with the tax credits we’ll be getting that investment back over time along with the reduction in our power costs.”

The financing

Financing for the $190,000 project came from Block 15, the Energy Trust of Oregon and community investors. Block 15 will receive tax benefits equal to its $123,179 contribution, community investors will participate to the tune of $48,000, with the final $19,794 coming from Energy Trust of Oregon.

Pure Energy Group of Jefferson is providing the solar panels, which are expected to produce enough renewable electricity each year to drive a passenger car 221,000 miles. Crews were installing the panels, which are made in Washington state by Silfab Solar, on Tuesday under partly sunny skies.

The downtown operation is due for a new roof in the next year or two, and Arzner said the company will examine whether solar is doable on that building. Arzner pointed out that other downtown flat-roofed buildings such as Peak Sports have been available to successfully plant solar on flat roofs.

Early next year Solarize Corvallis and Peter Greenberg of Energy Wise of Albany, will add panels to Third Street Commons, the homeless shelter operation at the former Corvallis Budget Inn. Linus Paulus Middle School also is on the 2022 schedule.

The tax benefits

“The tax benefits for a business from installing solar can be huge,” Dan Orzech, Oregon Clean Power Co-op’s general manager, said. “Combining them with community investment effectively reduces the upfront cost to the business to zero.”

“We’ve found that Corvallis residents have been eager to put their money to work in ways that benefit both the planet and our community,” Annette Mills, facilitator of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition, said. “The response has been tremendous.”

Ozrech and Mills, who were present for Tuesday's installation, also emphasized that Solarize Corvallis seeks to maximize flexibility by adapting its approach to the needs of the customer. For example, First United Methodist Church chose to forego the community investment piece and instead raised the money in donations from the congregations.

The Methodist project also raised enough funds to include a solar battery, which can store electricity and keep the building operational if the electricity grid fails for some reason. It was an important consideration for the church project because the site hosts a shelter for homeless women.

Block 15, Mills said, raised money from customers, family members, friends, and Corvallis Mayor Biff Traber, who has been a frequent contributor to Solarize Corvallis initiatives.

“Brewing great beer is an energy-intensive business,” said Kristen Arzner of Block 15. “We’re excited to be able to help make the planet a better place by partnering with our customers and other community members to shift our electricity to solar power.”

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@lee.net or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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