Last week saw the commissioning of the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility in eastern Oregon. It is America’s largest and fourth-largest hybrid wind, solar, and battery storage complex (so far). Many projects combine solar and storage or wind and storage, but there aren’t many that make use of all three.
The benefits are plain to see. While solar panels work best when the sun is shining, wind turbines may produce electricity whenever the wind blows. By including battery storage, all of the generated electricity is used up (curtailed, in utility industry jargon). The fact that only one transmission line is required to link hybrid systems like Wheatridge to the broader grid may be their largest advantage. Transmission lines are frequently among the more expensive components of a hub for renewable energy.
For use by Portland General Electric, NextEra Energy Resources constructed Wheatridge. It consists of a 30 MW/120 MWh battery, a 50 MW solar array, and a 200 MW wind farm. The three parts can provide enough electricity for nearly 100,000 houses when used together.
The governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, claimed in an press release , “Oregon is leading the way in building our clean energy economy due of initiatives like Wheatridge.” Under my leadership, Oregon has adopted a comprehensive strategy to cut carbon emissions and transition to 100% renewable energy on one of the most aggressive timetables in the country. I genuinely believe we can transition to 100% sustainable electricity sources while still generating high-paying jobs in rural Oregon.
There is no better time than now to start implementing clean energy projects. We are witnessing the effects of climate change in Oregon, with some of the most severe effects occurring in rural Oregon, she said, including extreme heat, wildfires, drought, and winter storms. We now have the chance to pursue federal financing for clean energy jobs across the state under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration.
The most recent of a series of reports on hybrid renewables, co-authored by Mark Bolinger of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, was released in August. He informs Inside Climate News that such hybrid facilities offer a number of benefits. First, leasing one large parcel of property in one jurisdiction is simpler for a business than leasing it in numerous locations, which lowers project expenses.
Second, sharing a single interconnection point with the grid allows the numerous components to operate more cheaply. When requesting the approval they need to connect new projects to the grid, developers frequently have to wait a lengthy time. The fact that a hybrid project might have two or three components that each only require one grid connection application is beneficial. Reduced costs for developers are the end result once more. Through a new transmission line built by Umatilla Electric Cooperative and connected to the regional high voltage grid of the Bonneville Power Administration, power from Wheatridge will be delivered to PGE customers.
Finally, if all the components are close to one another, a hybrid project requires fewer workers to maintain and service it after completion. Although just 10 people are required to run the hybrid renewable energy plant at the Wheatridge complex, 300 people were employed there during the construction phase.
According to Maria Pope, CEO of Portland General Electric, we continue to advance renewable energy solutions for our state, communities, and consumers while retaining dependability and affordability (not to be confused with PGandamp;E, the utility that services northern California). This collaboration represents a major technological advance in the decarbonization of our system and the accessibility of clean energy for all Oregonians.
Even though it makes perfect sense to incorporate battery storage into the Wheatridge facility, the primary reason it was planned in at the beginning of the project is that prior to the Inflation Reduction Act’s passage and signing this summer, standalone battery storage was not qualified for federal clean energy tax credits. Such battery storage systems are now qualified for tax credits of up to 30% under the new law.
THE CONCLUSION The significance of Wheatridge and the initiatives that will come after it cannot be overstated. If America wants to have any chance of lowering the risk of raging forest fires and increasingly powerful hurricanes like Hurricane Ian, which tore through Florida a few days ago, it must decarbonize its electrical supply.
The Inflation Reduction Act was not supported by a single Republican member of Congress, which should tell you everything you need to know about what will happen if those reactionaries take control of Congress in November. Vote as though the results affect your grandchildren’s lives because they do.
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