Oregon's largest solar array under construction
By Lee van der Voo
Sustainable Business Oregon contributing writer
Tigard-based Obsidian Finance has begun construction on its Outback solar project in Lake County. At 5-megawatts of production capacity, Outback will be Oregon's largest solar array.
The state’s largest solar array is under construction in Lake County, slated for completion this fall. The 5-megawatt, 16-acre solar array — known as Outback — is being developed by Obsidian Finance Group and Smart Energy Capital, and comes at a time when other utility-scale solar projects are stalling in Oregon.
The project was helped to fruition by $15 million in tax incentives through combined awards from Oregon’s former Business Energy Tax Credit program and the Energy Trust of Oregon.
Todd Gregory, assistant vice president of Tigard-based Obsidian said that persistence has also been a primary driver.
Outback has been four years in the making. It began with Gregory scouting southern Oregon land, armed with information on power lines, then probing transmission possibilities and working with utilities and local stakeholders. The project has since cleared numerous hurdles, including a challenge at the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.
Obsidian declined to provide the cost of the project.
Smart Energy Capital, a solar energy project developer with an office in Portland, arranged the financing for Outback, overseeing design and construction, negotiating transmission rights and a power purchase agreement with Portland General Electric, and finalizing incentive agreements.
Smart Energy’s Mike Grenier said the company – in business since 2009 and exclusively focused on solar development – is extremely proud of the project, which in some ways is the first of its kind.
“In terms of the gold standard, it’s really operating like any other power plant out there and meeting the same standards and requirements,” said Grenier, balancing power between PGE and the federal Bonneville Power Administration, a feat uncommon in solar and more like other types of power plants. “There’s somebody who is watching the project sunup to sundown every day of the year and scheduling power based on the weather forecast for every hour that the plant is operational.”
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