The First Wind-Solar- Battery Hybrid Plant Is Located In A Small Hamlet In Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The first large-scale renewable energy plant of its kind in North America will open in Oregon on Wednesday. It will use solar power, wind power, and huge batteries to store the energy it makes.

At full capacity, the project will make enough electricity to power a small city. It solves a big problem for the utility industry as the U.S. moves away from fossil fuels and uses more power from solar and wind farms. Wind and solar power are clean, but utilities have had to use fossil fuels like coal and natural gas to fill in the gaps when it’s not windy or sunny.

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At the Oregon plant, huge lithium batteries will store up to 120 megawatt-hours of power from the 300-megawatt wind farms and 50-megawatt solar farms so that it can be sent to the electric grid when needed. At full capacity, the plant will make more than half as much electricity as Oregon’s last coal plant, which was torn down earlier this month.

On-site battery storage isn’t new, and interest in solar-plus-battery projects has soared in the U.S. in recent years thanks to strong tax credits and incentives and the falling price of batteries. The Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility in Oregon, on the other hand, is the first place in the U.S. to combine integrated wind, solar, and battery storage on such a large scale in one place. This gives it even more flexibility to keep producing power without using fossil fuels to fill in the gaps.

Jason Burwen, vice president of energy storage at the American Clean Power Association, a lobbying group for the clean power industry, said that the project is “getting closer and closer to having something with a very stable output profile that we traditionally think is possible with a fuel-based generation power plant.”

“If the sun is putting out power and clouds come over, the battery can take over and keep the power going. As the sun goes down and the wind starts to blow, the battery can make sure that everything goes smoothly so that the grid operator doesn’t notice anything strange.

The plant is in a remote area three hours east of Portland. It is a partnership between NextEra Energy Resources and Portland General Electric, a public utility that is required by an Oregon climate law, one of the most ambitious in the country, to cut carbon emissions by 100% by 2040.

PGE’s customers also want green power; nearly a quarter million of them get only renewable energy. Kristen Sheeran, PGE’s director of sustainability strategy and resource planning, said that the Wheatridge project is “key to that decarbonization strategy.”

Under the terms of the partnership, PGE owns one-third of the wind power and buys all of the power from the facility for its portfolio of renewable energy. NextEra, which built and runs the site, owns two-thirds of the output from the wind and all of the output and storage from the sun.

David Lawlor, NextEra’s director of business development for the Pacific Northwest, said, “The fact that many other customers are looking at these kinds of facilities gives you an idea of what we think might be possible.” “Customers definitely want a stronger generation, starting with the battery storage in the back.”

Large-scale energy storage is important as the U.S. moves to more variable power sources like wind and solar, and people can expect to see similar projects all over the country as this trend grows. Models from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory show that the U.S. storage capacity could increase by a factor of five by 2050. However, experts say that even this won’t be enough to stop climate change from being very disruptive.

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