Solar, Wind, Storage Come Together in Oregon Project

A renewable energy project in eastern Oregon is being touted as the first in the U.S. to combine wind and solar power with battery storage.

Portland General Electric (PGE) plans to build the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility just north of Lexington, Oregon, the company announced last week. The utility is developing the 380-MW project with Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources and plans to begin construction this year. The facility would be the largest solar farm and battery storage project in the state, according to PGE.

PGE President and CEO Maria Pope in a statement said, “With the Wheatridge project, we’re accelerating Oregon’s transition to clean energy and showing the nation what the future of renewable energy looks like. We’re moving aggressively to integrate smart grid technologies and renewable energy to give customers affordable, clean, low-carbon energy. Wheatridge will be a model for integrating renewable generation and storage to cost-effectively reduce emissions while maintaining a reliable grid.”

Steve Corson, a PGE spokesman, said the battery storage capacity will be among the largest in the counrty. Said Corson: “We feel pretty certain that this is what the future of renewable power looks like. It’s more diverse, and it’s more flexible. Ultimately, it helps us reach the goal of maintaining more reliability in the system, maintaining the affordability of the system, and, yet, moving to that clean energy future.”

“We’re pleased to work with Portland General Electric on the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility, an exciting opportunity to combine wind, solar and energy storage,” said Armando Pimentel, president and CEO of NextEra Energy Resources, in a statement. “This venture will allow PGE’s customers to benefit from more renewable energy over more hours of the day and create substantial economic value for the communities that host this project, many of whom stand to benefit for years to come.”

Corson said the new project will enable PGE to produce 50% of its power from renewable sources. Oregon’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) calls for half of the state’s power to come from renewables by 2040.

Swaggart Wind Power, an Oregon company, began development of the Wheatridge project as a wind farm a decade ago. NextEra purchased the development rights in 2017, and along with PGE expanded the project to include solar and storage.

PGE will own 100 MW of the project, with NextEra owning the rest. NextEra will operate the facility and sell its power generation to PGE under 30-year power purchase agreements

Adding Storage to Overcome Intermittency

Adding battery storage to wind and/or solar farms is becoming more prevalent as power generators work to overcome one of the biggest challenges with renewables—their intermittency, as wind farms produce power only when the wind blows, and solar farms only when the sun shines.

Storage is an integral part of the strategy for meeting RPS requirements, said Morten Lund, a partner with Stoel Rives in San Diego, California, who practices in the Energy Development group and chairs the Energy Storage Initiative. Lund, in a recent interview with POWER, said, “We expect to see storage components either required or highly encouraged in the wind RFPs from the California utilities.” He noted “there are a few other smaller markets,” such as Oregon, where it also comes into play.

The Wheatridge project in part will replace generation that will be lost when PGE’s 550-MW Boardman Coal Plant closes by year-end 2020. Both the Wheatridge facility and the Boardman plant are located in Morrow County. PGE said it plans to have the wind turbines at Wheatridge online in December 2020, with the solar and battery projects operational in 2021.

PGE said it expects to create 300 construction jobs with the project. The plant would require about 10 workers once it is operational. Don Russell, a Morrow County commissioner, in a statement said, “This project will benefit our communities through jobs, property taxes and community support.”

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).