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Solar Fair – Sustainable Silverton presents options

By Melissa Wagoner

Forced evacuation during the wildfires of 2020, fallen debris during the ice storm of 2021 and an increased amount of drought and fire danger after last summer’s heat dome event, when combined, became a major wakeup call for Megan Benedict – one she simply couldn’t ignore.

“These episodes made me feel very helpless,” Benedict said. “But I love my home and I love Silverton so I decided it was important for me to spend time doing what I can to help make our community more resilient in the face of these severe climate challenges. Feeling helpless stinks, I’d rather do what I can to make real change.”

She sought like-minded individuals, eventually joining the Sustainable Silverton Coalition. It’s a group whose mission, since its founding in 2014, has been to enhance the community’s resiliency and self-reliance through the support of the local economy, improved healthcare, increased livability and the encouragement of planet-friendly practices.

“I was attracted by the action-oriented vision of the group and was impressed that the City of Silverton had adopted the Silverton Energy Plan in 2019, which was developed by Sustainable Silverton,” Benedict said. The group continues to support the city’s efforts to promote sustainability through various challenges and events. 

One such effort, the Solar Energy Fair, will take place Saturday, April 16 at the Silverton Senior Center. The event will offer both education and encouragement to community members interested in finding renewable energy options for use in their homes.

“Our goals are threefold,” Charles Baldwin said. He was a founding member of Sustainable Silverton and coauthor of the Silverton Energy Plan. Baldwin  characterized the plan as an introduction of low-cost renewable energy options, effective funding models and a city-wide reduction in the fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.

“The Solar Fair is our effort to educate the public and encourage people to make changes in their own homes that will have beneficial impacts on our community,” Benedict said. This is one topic, as the owner of 29 solar panels installed in 2015, she can speak to first-hand.  

“They have produced 51.3 MWh of electricity over the last seven years which has been fed back onto the electric grid,” she said. The energy those panels have produced has shown up as a credit on each month’s electric bill and has saved her hundreds of dollars each year. 

“Since our home is all-electric (no gas appliances) we use more electricity than homes that have gas heating and gas stoves,” she explained. “The solar panels have offset about 30 percent of our electric consumption.”

It’s a switch Benedict is hoping more people can make. The event will introduce not only options for implementing solar panels but information on switching to more environmentally conscious appliances. 

“If we are going to curb climate change, we must reduce the use of fossil fuels like natural gas,” she said. “New technology is here that uses electricity – not natural gas – in the form of heat pumps for both home heating/cooling and water heaters and induction ranges to replace gas-fired stoves.

“Anyone who is considering replacing a furnace, water heater or stovetop will be interested to hear about the electric alternatives that perform better, are safer and are often much cheaper to operate.”

“We hope that the community will learn from the presenters and feel motivated to act on the information received,” Baldwin added.

Solar Energy Fair

Saturday, April 16, 3 to 5 p.m.

Presentations on:

• Making environmentally friendly appliance choices

• Low-cost solar panel funding 

• Installation options 

Silverton Senior Center: 115 Westfield St., Silverton


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