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Solar farms are on county wish list

As federal stimulus dollars make their way into Jackson County, local governments are trying to tap into even more money for a wish list of projects.

The county is asking the federal government for $94 million to build solar farms that would generate electricity, and it hopes to snag another $5 million to remove the 105-year-old Gold Ray Dam from the Rogue River as early as summer 2010.

The Oregon Department of Transportation hopes to repave Highway 62 from White City to just south of Shady Cove.

Both Medford and Ashland are seeking millions, for projects ranging from a pedestrian bridge over Barnett Road for the Bear Creek Greenway to repairs for sewage treatment plants.

Jackson County Commissioner Dave Gilmour said he expects organizations, such as Dunn House women's shelter and ACCESS Inc. food bank, also will receive federal money, though some of the details still are being worked out.

But the county's bid for solar farms appears to be the most ambitious project so far.

"It is a very substantial amount we're putting in for, and we don't know if we'll get it," he said.

As part of the federal stimulus package, there is $3.2 billion available in energy efficiency and conservation grants. Another $16 billion is available for renewable energy projects such as wind or solar.

The county wants to install a solar farm on a 47-acre parcel near Highway 62 that is in the flight path of the Medford airport. Gilmour said that portion would cost $74 million.

Another $8 million would be spent at the airport to add solar panels to the new terminal and in the parking lot. Almost $7 million would be spent retrofitting the Compton Arena at the Jackson County Expo Center in Central Point with solar panels.

Retrofitting the Jackson County Courthouse with energy-efficient windows and new heating and lighting would cost $4 million. Gilmour said the remainder of the money would place a smaller solar installation at a county truck barn in White City.

Gilmour said that if the installations were built in Southern Oregon, it could help create a solar-based economy locally.

It also would provide the largest solar center in the state, which Gilmour said would help promote Jackson County.

"More people would think highly of moving here and setting up businesses here," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.