Drivers on Interstate 5 near Portland, Oregon, are seeing highway illumination in “a new light,” thanks to an educational display that opened this month at the Baldock Safety Rest Area. While most motorists make a stop at the facilities to take advantage of the usual amenities—restrooms, restaurants, and shops—they stay a little longer now, to learn about how solar power is being used to brighten the adjoining roadway at night.
On seven acres of Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT)-owned property right behind the rest area, the Baldock Solar Station — a 1.75-megawatt (MW), 6,994-solar panel array— is now generating up to 1.97 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year of renewable energy.
The $10 million project was developed through an innovative, first-in-the-nation public-private partnership between the ODOT and area utility Portland General Electric—as well as U.S. Bank, which is PGE’s tax equity partner. Through the use of state and federal renewable energy tax credits, accelerated depreciation, and grants offered through the Energy Trust of Oregon and PGE’s Clean Wind Fund, this award-winning partnership benefits PGE customers. The Renewable Energy Certificates, which represent the green power produced by the solar array, are retired on behalf of PGE’s customers, including the State of Oregon and ODOT.
The solar station comprises solar modules produced by SolarWorld of Hillsboro, just outside of Portland. All other consulting, construction, analysis and other materials also were provided by Oregon-based companies—among them:
· Aadland Evans Constructors Inc., Portland, general contractor;
· Moyano Leadership Group Inc., Salem, civil design leader;
· Advanced Energy Systems, Eugene, solar power specialty designer and installer;
· HatiCon Solar and SAPA, with offices in Portland, solar racking; and
· PHC Northwest of Portland, security lighting.
“Between the Baldock Solar Highway 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 Oregon,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez “Well done, Oregon, for leading the way in building the solar highway.” While the project sits on the transportation system right of way, it is not owned by ODOT. SunWay1, LLC, a limited liability company managed by Portland General Electric, owns and operates this solar power plant. Solar energy produced by the array feeds into the grid during the day, in effect running the meter backwards for energy needed at night to light the interchange through a Solar Power Purchase Agreement with PGE. The success of SunWay1 has led ODOT and PGE to explore further opportunities to put renewable energy onto Oregon’s grid and add value to the public’s transportation system right of way.
“With this project, we’re helping Oregonians understand how solar power benefits us all,” said Matt Garrett, ODOT director. “But we’re accomplishing more than just installing a solar array: We’re supporting local businesses, local workers and the state economy.”
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