Oregon Shakespeare Festival adds electric vehicles to its green energy initiative

Solar panels on the roof of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production facility in Talent are part of the first Participant-Owned Community Solar (CS) project in Oregon. True South Solar photo
August 27, 2022

Electric and hybrid vehicles will be used by visiting artists

By Lee Juillerat for Ashland.news

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is going greener.

In recent weeks OSF has taken steps to create clean power by installing solar panels and making arrangements to use electric vehicles.

Through Solarize Rogue, a project using solar panels on the OSF Production Building in Talent has been operating since March 14 and is providing power for 16 Rogue Valley homes and also providing 20 percent discounts for two low-income families recruited by Rogue Climate. OSF plans to have hold an on-site celebration at a to-be announced and, according to a news release, “hope that community members can come by to discover community solar and what clean, renewable energy is all about.”

“This is the first ‘Carve-Out’ project in the State, the first certified project in Pacific Power territory and the first ‘Participant-Owned’ project” in Oregon, according to a statement from OSF and Solarize Rogue. “This project demonstrates that community members can indeed own their power-generating equipment even if the solar panels are not physically located on their rooftops.”

In addition, OSF announced it has forged a new partnership with Medford-based Lithia & Driveway, which is part of Lithia Motors, as part of a push toward more environmentally sustainable practices. Beginning this year, Lithia & Driveway will provide new electric and hybrid vehicles and their charging infrastructures to OSF on an annual basis. Lithia has donated a 2021 Ford Mach-E and a 2020 Kia Niro EV, which are both fully electric, along with two hybrid vehicles, a 2022 Toyota Sienna and a 2022 Ford Escape PHEV, which will be used to transport visiting artists who come to Ashland.

“Alongside our commitment to providing a platform for the necessary, culture-changing visions of artists, OSF recognizes the urgent need to reduce our impact on the planet,” said OSF Artistic Director Nataki Garrett. “Through these new partnerships with Lithia & Driveway, Oregon Clean Power Cooperative, and Solarize Rogue, we hope to usher in a new era for our institution and its relationship to the environment.”

“We’re so happy to be building a green network with local nonprofits and companies committed to combating climate change, and to be realizing a more sustainable future through concrete solutions,” said OSF executive director David Schmitz.

“Lithia & Driveway is a consumer education leader in green vehicle technology, and we are exceptionally pleased to partner with them as we provide services for our artists who travel in from all over the country,” he said, adding, “The Oregon Clean Power Cooperative and Solarize Rogue have been fantastic partners to us as we expand our already impressive solar infrastructure around the globe, and will be a welcome addition to OSF’s fleet of aging vehicles.”

“As a leader in educating consumers on the benefits of owning electric and hybrid vehicles through GreenCars.com, we are thrilled to support like-minded organizations in their sustainability efforts,” said Marguerite Celeste, Lithia’s chief marketing officer.

Likewise, in a joint statement Schmitz and Garrett credited Lithia & Driveway and Solarize Rogue:

“As OSF builds its green initiatives, it also hopes to recognize and elevate local nonprofits in the field. Founded in 2015, the Oregon Clean Power Cooperative and its members have used community investment and other financing sources to install solar on schools, churches, libraries, nonprofits, and local government buildings throughout Oregon.

“Now expanding into community solar and other means of increasing the amount of renewable energy available to Oregonians, the company has installed a 100-kilowatt community-financed system that partially powers OSF’s production building and will, within 12 years, provide OSF with completely free power. The system also includes a battery that will provide emergency power to the production building in the case of a grid outage, as happened during the Almeda fire of 2020.”

Dan Orzech, Oregon Clean Power Cooperative’s general manager, has praise for festival managers, saying, “OSF has been a great partner in these pioneering solar projects, which showcase the range of options now available for participating in the solar revolution. This is the first building in Oregon with a community solar and a community-financed solar project side-by-side on the roof. Individual investors and participants across the state and OSF are all benefiting financially from these projects, while helping Oregon shift to clean energy.”

Adding more plaudits is Ray Sanchez-Pescador, Solarize Rogue. “We are thrilled that OSF shares our commitment to the environment, and that they let us install this pilot Community Solar project on the roof of their production building in Talent. This project demonstrates the feasibility of Community Solar projects in Oregon,” he said, noting, “Our gratitude goes out to the leadership and staff at OSF.”

More green power projects are planned by Solarize Rogue and its partner, the Oregon Clean Power Coop, who are preparing to launch several new projects throughout Southwestern Oregon.

“These second-wave projects are expected to be much larger than our pilot, reaching sizes between 800 and 1,300 kW, each,” the groups said in a joint statement. “We will open enrollment to participate in these projects to all Oregon residents who are currently serviced by Pacific Power, irrespective of location.  While part of our projects will be targeting access for low-income families, there will be plenty of opportunity for Oregonians to own panels in these projects at a significantly reduced cost because of economies of scale.  Be sure to sign up soon to ensure that you get the clean, renewable energy your home needs by contacting us.  We will be announcing the official kick-off for these projects very soon.”

Email freelance writer Lee Juillerat at 337lee337@charter.net.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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