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"PGE and ODOT break ground on solar highway project"

Portland General Electric and the Oregon Department Transportation broke ground on a $10 million solar array at the Baldock Rest Area on Interstate 5 south of Wilsonville. The project comprises almost 7,000 panels spread over seven acres of land owned by ODOT behind the rest area. It will generate up to 1.97 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year -- about 9 percent of the electricity consumed by the agency in the utility's service territory. PGE hopes to flip the switch in January.

"PGE and ODOT break ground on solar highway project"

Solar panels from the Henninsen PV installations.

By Ted Sickinger
The Oregonian
>> click here to read orignial article

Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez joined Portland General Electric and the Oregon Department Transportation Tuesday to break ground on a $10 million solar array at the Baldock Rest Area on Interstate 5 south of Wilsonville.

The project comprises almost 7,000 panels spread over seven acres of land owned by ODOT behind the rest area. It will generate up to 1.97 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year -- about 9 percent of the electricity consumed by the agency in the utility's service territory. PGE hopes to flip the switch in January.

Like most renewable energy projects, the $10 million solar array has complex and heavily subsidized financing. Bank of America is the owner and "tax equity partner" for the deal under a sale-leaseback transaction with PGE, which will build, operate and buy power from the project. PGE, which has no appetite for the tax deductions, has the option to buy the project after six years when the bank has realized the state and federal credits.

Oregon taxpayers are the biggest contributors to the project in the form of a business energy tax credit equal to nearly 50 percent of its cost. Federal tax breaks are good for another 30 percent of the cost. Oregon ratepayers contributed $1.75 million from the public purpose charges that are tacked on to their electricity bills each month and administered by the Energy Trust of Oregon. PGE's green power customers, who pay a premium on their monthly bills to buy renewable power, also made a $250,000 contribution to the project.

Renewable energy credits generated by the project will go to the ETO, ODOT and PGE, helping those organizations meet renewable energy and carbon reduction targets.

Organizers stressed that the Baldock array is an "all-Oregon" effort, with solar panels made by SolarWorld in Hillsboro, inverters from Advanced Energy of Bend, and consulting, construction and other materials provided by local firms. An interpretive display will be installed at the rest stop so travelers can learn about the array.

 
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