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Medford hopes more power users want Blue Sky

Medford officials are pushing for a 25 percent increase this year in the number of Pacific Power customers who rely at least in part on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

The City Council last week accepted a challenge to increase the number of customers using green energy from the current 2,100 to more than 2,600. Pacific Power serves 35,000 customers in Medford.

Pacific Power's Blue Sky program allows businesses and residential customers to purchase renewable energy for their electricity needs.

Numerous local companies already are participating.

"Lithia just signed up at our 'visionary' level," said Monte Mendenhall, spokesman for Pacific Power. The visionary level is top level attainable for green power under the program, he said, meaning Lithia has committed to obtaining at least 30 percent of its power from renewable sources.

Mendenhall also said the Medford airport will be building a solar array extending across the vehicle lanes in front of its terminal. That will produce 25 kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power up to 10 houses, and will complement an existing 15-killowatt-hour set of panels at the airport's toll booth.

The Medford/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce also has joined in the challenge, which will be formally announced at the Pear Blossom Festival on Friday, April 12.

Asante Health System, Coca Cola Bottling Company of Oregon, and Harry & David have been part of Blue Sky for years.

The city of Medford signed on for the "champion" level, meaning the city plans to purchase 10 percent of its power from renewable energy.

Glenda Wilson, assistant to the city manager, said the annual bill for electricity at City Hall is $63,450 a year, or $5,287 a month. Joining the Blue Sky program will cost an additional $120 a month, Wilson said.

"We're trying to participate where we can," Wilson said.

If the city meets the challenge by the end of the year, Pacific Power has agreed to install a 1-killowatt-hour solar array somewhere in the city. Mendenhall said a location for the installation hasn't been picked yet.

"It's a pretty exciting time to promote this," Mendenhall said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.

This illustration shows a planned solar array extending across the vehicle lanes in front of the Medford airport terminal, which will produce 25 kilowatt hours of electricity.