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Novel solar-wind-battery power plant in Oregon a 'needle mover' for renewables

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Eric Tegethoff

(Oregon News Service) A first-of-its-kind hybrid power plant with wind, solar and battery storage has opened in Oregon, and the plant could be a model as power grids across the country decarbonize.

The Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility is a partnership between Portland General Electric and NextEra Energy Resources and is located in Lexington, about 30 miles south of the Columbia River in Central Oregon.

Brett Sims, vice president of strategy, regulation, and energy supply for Portland General Electric, said the facility will go a long way toward achieving Oregon's ambitious climate goals.

"That's a generating facility that literally has the capability to serve 100,000 households, which is roughly the equivalent of the energy requirements of a city the size of Salem or Eugene," Sims pointed out. "So when we add those types of facilities, that's a big needle mover."

Under a law passed last year, Oregon utilities are required to reduce carbon emissions by 100% by 2040, one of the most ambitious climate goals in the nation.

Jason Burwen, vice president of energy storage for the American Clean Power Association, said the sun does not always shine when the wind is blowing and vice versa, which is why the hybrid facility will look as if it is one resource with consistent output.

He noted one of the biggest challenges to wind and solar now is a lack of transmission lines.

"Folks are trying to find efficiencies for how to get more resources online faster and hybridizing them," Burwen emphasized. "Putting them all together at one site can help speed up that process."

Burwen stressed we can build solar, wind and storage faster than any other clean resource. He added 2040 might seem far away, but building will have to start today to move utilities away from fossil-fuel sources by then.

"To meet a fully decarbonized power system requires us to build more wind and solar and storage than we ever have before at a pace that is greater than we have ever done before," Burwen concluded.

Support for this reporting was provided by Solutions Journalism Network.