One year after breaking ground, the nation’s largest solar highway project — a partnership between Portland General Electric and the Oregon Department of Transportation — is now open to visitors stopping to take respite from their travels along Interstate 5 in Oregon.
Growing clean, renewable energy amongst farm fields of corn and cabbage, the Baldock Solar Station is a 1.75-megawatt solar array boasting nearly 7,000 solar panels across seven acres of the Baldock Safety Rest Area, located on Interstate 5 northbound near Wilsonville. Visitors to the station can learn about solar power and Oregon’s solar highway installations through a variety of interpretive displays and walk along a sustainable community garden bordering the site created by Oregon State University Master Gardeners.
Built and operated by PGE on land owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation, the $10 million solar array went online in January and is expected to produce 1.97 million kilowatt-hours of energy each year — equivalent to 11 percent of ODOT’s need in PGE’s service territory.
“This solar highway project shows how Oregon is leading the nation in developing innovative, renewable energy sources,” said Jim Piro, PGE president and CEO. “The Baldock Solar Station not only educates travelers about the booming solar industry in our state, but showcases what can be accomplished through creative collaboration between public and private partners.”
“With this project — the largest of its kind in the nation — we’re contributing to a strong future in clean, renewable energy resources for Oregon,” said Matt Garrett, ODOT director. “It’s just one example of the kind of forward-thinking approach we can take in transportation — one that brings multiple benefits to Oregonians.”
The Baldock Solar Station is also an all-Oregon project, featuring 6,994 panels produced by SolarWorld of Hillsboro, with inverters provided by Advanced Energy of Bend. All consulting, construction, analysis and other materials also were provided by Oregon companies.
The station is the second joint highway solar project between PGE and ODOT and will help PGE meet the state’s Renewable Energy Standard of providing 25 percent of its power from renewable energy sources by 2025. To date, PGE has a combined 37.7 megawatts of solar power online by utility and customer resources in Oregon. Nearly 3,000 PGE customers have solar electric systems installed on their homes and businesses.
Bank of America provided financing for the project, with additional support provided by Energy Trust of Oregon, PGE’s Clean Wind program and the state’s Business Energy Tax Credit program.