Sep 19, 2017

When I was in college decades ago, I was doing a research paper. I heard the term “solar cells”. I didn’t know what they were, so I went the library. I found a book that had one paragraph about photovoltaic cells and I read it over and over and over, because I couldn’t believe it. “A solid state device that converts sunlight to electricity!” I just kept reading it thinking that it just couldn’t be true, because if it were, everybody would be out dancing in the street celebrating.

Stories_Website_kay_Firor_featured.pngWhen I first got out of college with a degree in engineering, a former teacher had me come down and see the Solar Energy Research Institute, now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). And so, right out of college I went into photovoltaics.  It was just a fun, cool job.

I then went to work for the electric utility PG&E and eventually became their lead engineer in charge of photovoltaic systems research. We installed the first grid connected photovoltaic system in northern California, and I helped start the PVUSA project (Photovoltaics for Utility Scale Applications).

Right when that was getting started, my husband and I moved to Cove, Oregon. We love it here. We raised our family here and have been here for about 28 years. Our small business, Blue Mountain Solar, started as a consulting company for utilities. Times have changed and we have become very busy installing small residential PV systems. 

Kent, my partner, works full time on solar installations now while I do the books and help when he needs it. We install about a dozen systems annually and do a bunch of work on existing systems in about a 200 mile radius. We have put in several systems in Cove, including one at the local High School.

Electricity in Cove comes from a co-op, not the big utilities in Oregon, so people here don’t have access to the same rebates for clean power as people in cities. Kent spends a lot of time travelling outside of Cove to serve clients who do have access to additional incentives.  With a law like Clean Energy Jobs, that would change and we could see a lot more people creating their own power at an affordable price.Those who do put in solar can really see the savings and often call us back asking if they can do more! 

We now have a paid apprentice who is working on gaining hours to become licensed to install solar. He is a local guy who wrote us a letter when he was moving to Cove, Oregon and was really interested in photovoltaics. He is helping Kent install local residential projects. With significant resources to help people pay for solar panels, our business could grow.

If investment funds were available in Cove, it would be easier for local residents to install solar systems. More community members would be saving on their energy costs, and more local workers who are interested in photovoltaics might have the opportunity to work here full time.