Max Denning

Since 1977, nearly 600,000 Oregonians have participated in the Oregon Residential Energy Tax Credit program, which gave tax credits of up to $6,000 for solar photovoltaic systems, heat pump water heaters, ductless heat pumps, furnaces and other select energy-efficiency devices. The program ended in 2018, when Oregon legislators failed to extend the program in 2017. Now, owners of the local solar company Blue Mountain Solar said they are feeling the effects.

Kent Osterberg, who owns Blue Mountain Solar with his wife, Kay Firor, said their business has been hurt by the loss of the tax credit, but has seen more enthusiasm in recent years.

“There’s certainly been more interest (in solar energy) than there was 15 years ago,” Osterberg said. “Things slowed down because of (the ending of the state tax credits for solar) but it hasn’t come to a standstill,” noting the company has projects going up this year in La Grande, Enterprise and other locations in Eastern Oregon. Blue Mountain Solar specializes in “the consulting, design, and installation of utility-connected or remote solar electric systems,” its website states.

Presently, Osterberg said, it takes about 18 years for people to make their money back in reduced energy costs to pay for what solar panels cost up front. When the tax credit was in place, he said, it would take more like 8 to 11 years to make your money back.

See more in Monday's edition of The Observer.