Energy companies plan a giant renewable energy project in Morrow County, combining wind and solar power generation with battery storage.
Plans for the facility have been in the works for nine years. On Wednesday, Portland General Electric said it wants to build the project with a big Florida company called NextEra Energy, subject to approval by NextEra management and sign-off by the Oregon Public Utility Commission.
Backers say their proposed Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility will combine 300 megawatts of wind energy with 50 megawatts of solar power and 30 megawatts of storage. Previous plans had called for up to 500 megawatts of wind power.
What’s unique about this project, according to PGE, is that it combines wind, solar and battery storage. The Portland utility says this would be the largest in North America integrating those three technologies and the largest battery facility in Oregon.
Clean energy advocates say battery technology is an important component of long-term plans to reduce atmospheric emissions that cause climate change. That’s because many renewable energy sources, including wind and solar, only produce power intermittently.
PGE is investing in new generation facilities to offset the pending closure of its coal power plant in Boardman, growing energy use around the region and Oregon clean power requirements.
PGE said it expects to spend $160 million on its portion of the Wheatridge project and own 100 megawatts of wind power generated by Wheatridge, committing to buy the remaining output from NextEra in a 30-year agreement. NextEra declined to disclose what it plans to spend on its portion fo the project.
The utility said it’s too soon to say how that will affect rates but Wheatridge was the least expensive option available to it under the state’s clean energy mandate.
Once operational, PGE said, Wheatridge and other power projects will enable the utility to produce 1,000 megawatts of electricity from wind farms, which it said is equivalent to the energy use of 340,000 homes. PGE said its additional Wheatridge power will enable it to meet half of customers’ power needs from emissions-free sources.
Plans call for the wind farm to be generating power by the end of 2020, with construction of the solar and battery elements to begin the following year. PGE said each phase qualifies for federal tax credits that will help offset the cost.
The project site is north of Lexington, Oregon, about 30 miles south of I-84 at Boardman. PGE said it anticipates up to 300 temporary construction jobs building the wind arm and as many as 175 jobs building the solar and battery project. Once operational, the facility will require just 10 full-time employees.
The utility said the wind farm will include as many as 120 turbines, turning on hubs 300 feet above the ground, covering less than one acre apiece. The solar and battery facility will occupy an additional 350 acres.
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