Solar savings to benefit SLMH, clients

[Photo by Damien Sherwood]

It’s said sunshine can have a positive effect on mental wellness. At South Lane Mental Health (SLMH), this notion is being put to use — with a technological twist.

The mental health nonprofit is nearing completion of its installation of a 60-panel solar array thanks to funding support from Pacific Power’s Blue Sky energy program and Energy Trust of Oregon.

“It’s just a win-win for clients, the planet and South Lane Mental Health,” said SLMH Development Manager Norma Barton. “We’re just so ecstatic.”

Blue Sky is an opt-in program that gives Pacific Power customers the opportunity to match all or part of their energy use with renewable energy in order to reduce carbon footprints and increase demand for new renewable energy in the West.

Taking on the solar project at SLMH comes with multiple benefits, said Barton. Not only will it save on utility costs and reduce the building’s carbon footprint, the savings will ultimately benefit clients in the depth of services that can be provided.

The savings won’t be earmarked for a particular program, though the extra money can be distributed across the board. Barton pointed out that the nonprofit currently spends around $300,000 annually on clients who either don’t have insurance or can’t afford their co-payments.

“So I would imagine that the savings are going to go towards that at least partially, if not in large part,” she said.

Though Barton said it was too early to put a number on expected savings, she said it would be “fairly significant.”

The project is expected to go online within the next week or two as SLMH waits for some remaining work to be completed by the city and Pacific Power.

Funding from Pacific Power and Energy Trust of Oregon came in the form of grants, an application process for which Barton explained was fairly competitive.

SLMH started the grant application process more than a year ago, but was lucky to find a contractor who was familiar with the program and anticipated each of the hoops to jump through.

When completed, the 60 panels will make up a 23.1-kilowatt, roof-mounted, grid-tied, solar PV (photovoltaic) array, with an annual output of 20,697 kwh.

Though the array is installed on the SLMH building at 1245 Birch Ave., the nonprofit’s nearby building at 1345 Birch Ave. will benefit from the hookup as well.

The project will also include, per a requirement from Pacific Power, that SLMH’s meter is hooked to the nonprofit’s website. A production monitoring system will provide historic and real time generation data, displaying the project’s measurable effect.

Blue Sky funding awards are made possible by participants in Blue Sky Block, one of Pacific Power’s renewable energy options, who are powering the possibilities through awards that cover up to 100 percent of the capital costs to install qualifying, new renewable energy systems for non-residential sites in Pacific Power’s service area.

Blue Sky Block has helped fund over 140 new, community-based renewable energy projects across Oregon, Washington and California since 2006. The systems include solar, wind, geothermal and other forms of renewable energy.

Visit SLMH online at or Pacific Power at to learn more.

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