The exorbitant price for solar installation atop a local Oregon courthouse is calling into question the state’s renewable energy policies.
Multnomah County, Oregon’s most populous county, is currently building a striking new courthouse. The $325 million, 17-story establishment will house 44 courtrooms and provide new office space for the Multnomah Country district attorney when completed. The state-of-the-art building will also include another noteworthy feature: a government-mandated solar installation system so reportedly inefficient and costly that it will take over 100 years to pay for itself.
A report by the Oregon Department of Energy reveals Multnomah County will burn $6.6 million putting “green energy technology” into the new courthouse, $1.47 million of which includes the construction of a rooftop solar system, over-sized windows and special insulation, according to Willamette Week.
Renewable energy advocates typically defend such extravagant price tags by pointing to long-term savings that come with solar panels, saving money on electricity bills over time. However, the annual value of the solar power produced is estimated to be just $13,424. If accurate, this means taxpayers would not see their investments fully recouped for another 109 years.
The local courthouse’s pricey solar project is partially a result of state mandates. Oregon lawmakers passed a series of legislation in 2007 aimed at boosting the renewable energy sector. One such bill, House Bill 2620, requires public agencies spending over $1 million on any new construction project to allocate 1.5 percent of their budget to solar energy. While such a rule could explain away the county’s moves, their massive expenditures go above and beyond what the mandate calls for.
One-and-a-half percent of the projects’s total value adds up to $3.67 million. However, the county is investing $6.6 million on green energy measures for the courthouse, far exceeding state requirements. (RELATED: Report: Costly Electric Vehicles Hardly Do Anything To Help The Environment)
Multnomah County officials, for their part, are pushing back on the findings, claiming the panels are not as inefficient as reports suggest. “They are telling me it is a 40-year payback period not 109 years,” Multnomah County Spokesperson Mike Pullen said in a statement published Wednesday. Pullen supports the money spent on the project, believing the solar panels will be a boon for the local environment.
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