On Jan. 27, the City of Portland, Ore., launched Solar Now!, a one-year effort to increase demand for solar hot-water and photovoltaic systems. In partnership with Solar Oregon, the Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association, and Energy Trust of Oregon, as well as local solar contractors, the project will target high-profile businesses and community members to reach 100 systems installed in prominent locations throughout Portland. The campaign also aims to raise awareness of existing resources, such as Solar Oregon, which has been offering residential workshops and solar outreach since 1979.

Currently, the funding for Solar Now! covers only one year. The city is seeking a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, which is offering a total of $1.6 million through its Market Transformation City Strategic Partnerships program. The grant originates with the Solar America Initiative, a U.S. Department of Energy program with a proposed 2007 budget of $148 million. Six to eight cities will receive awards in March.

The grant, says Lee Rahr, Solar Now! program coordinator, would let the city continue the Solar Now! program and also focus on figuring out more solar possibilities for the city. “If we get this grant, we'll be able to work more closely with solar for the city's existing and new facilities,” Rahr says. “There are really great incentives out there for the city as well as commercial businesses and residents.”

Portland's interest in solar energy is on the rise. In 2004, nine solar electric and three solar water-heating systems were installed through Energy Trust programs. In 2005, there were 20 electric and 49 solar water-heating systems installed. In 2006, 29 electric and 101 solar water-heating systems were installed.