In a city better known for its dark clouds and rain, officials are hoping to turn the lights up on solar power.

The city of Portland, Ore., recently launched its Solar Now! Campaign. The one-year effort aims to increase awareness of the benefits of solar power by getting 100 new, high-profile systems installed. The program’s goal is to have the systems installed by well-known and visible businesses and community members in locations where they will receive the maximum exposure to the public.

The city’s Office of Sustainable Development has partnered on the project with three organizations dedicated to the cause of solar power, Solar Oregon, the Oregon Solar Energy Industries Association and Energy Trust of Oregon.

Solar Oregon helped launch the campaign in January with the first in a series of workshops on solar power. The courses offer information on hiring contractors, taking advantage of tax credits and how to install and use solar technology.

In conjunction with the state and federal government, Energy Trust offers tax incentives on photovoltaic (PV) and solar water heating devices installation that can cover up to 50 percent of a new system cost.

Officials involved in the program note that interest is on the rise and the joint effort will help solar power in Portland go mainstream.

Energy Trust of Oregon notes that last year, city residents took advantage of the organization’s tax incentive programs to install 29 photovoltaic and 101 solar water-heating systems. That is nearly double the 20 PV and 49 solar water-heating systems they installed the year before, and an even bigger jump from the nine PV and three solar water-heating systems they installed in 2004.          EC