Oregon breaks ground on nation's largest solar highway project
By Christina Williams
Editor, Sustainable Business Oregon
Portland General Electric CEO Jim Piro signing a commemorative solar panel at the launch of the Baldock Solar Highway project.
Portland General Electric and the Oregon Department of Transportation broke ground Tuesday on what's billed as the nation's largest solar highway project.
The 1.75 megawatt solar array, which will be installed adjacent to the rest area on Interstate 5 northbound near Wilsonville, is expected to generate 1.97 million kilowatt hours of energy per year — enough to satisfy about 9 percent of what ODOT typically purchases from PGE.
Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez was on hand Tuesday to congratulate the state for its leadership.
"Between this project — the largest of its kind in the nation — and the solar interchange a few miles north of here, it's clear the road to the future starts here in Oreogn," Mendez said in prepared remarks.
ODOT and PGE are boasting an all-Oregon project, similar to the ground-mounted solar project launched by the Oregon University System last week. The Baldock Solar Highway array will include 6,994 panels from SolarWorld, with the solar inverters coming from Advanced Energy, which purchased PV Powered of Bend in last year.
ODOT owns the land and PGE will build and operate the installation, which is expected to come online in January. The array will help PGE meet the state's renewable portfolio standard which requires utilities to get 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025.
The solar highway project is also supported by funds and incentives from Energy Trust of Oregon, PGE's Clean Wind program and Oregon's Business Energy Tax Credit program. Bank of America is providing financing.
Shelley Snow, spokeswoman for ODOT said the department is still considering expanding the solar highway demonstration project at the intersection of I-5 and I-205. In addition, the department is the process of completing an analysis of other potential sites for solar on ODOT land across the state.
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