Large solar projects are multiplying in Oregon

One of the nation’s largest solar power installations is making progress in southern Oregon’s Christmas Valley after receiving state approval last month – and the director of the Department of Energy Oregon said other industrial solar projects may follow.

The Energy Facility Siting Council approved the state’s first large-scale solar project in Boardman in 2018. It has now approved a total of seven, with six more in the pipeline.

“Now that’s the majority of projects being considered by the site board, so I think it shows a trend for bigger and bigger projects,” the Energy Department director said Monday. of Oregon, Janine Benner, at OPB’s Think Out Loud.

Solar generated less than 1% of the electricity used in Oregon in 2019. Benner said solar power generation must increase significantly to meet national and regional targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Christmas Valley facility, called Obsidian Solar Center and supported by Obsidian Renewables of Lake Oswego, will cover six square miles of land with approximately 1.7 million solar panels. The facility will be able to produce 400 megawatts of electricity at its maximum capacity, enough to power approximately 76,000 homes. However, the sun does not always shine and solar panels require maintenance, so the actual electricity production would be less.

Solar proposals in other parts of the state could add more than 1,000 megawatts of capacity. The implementation advice is review projects in Lake, Klamath, Umatilla and Morrow counties.

“You have utilities that are looking to the future…and planning how they’re going to meet demand, and solar will be a big part of that,” Benner said. “So I think the business case is definitely there.”

Benner added that the electricity generated by Oregon’s solar projects could be purchased by utilities or other private companies like google Where Metawho have data centers in the state and have committed to running them with renewable energy.

The solar industry has been slow to develop in Oregon, in part because of deficiencies in its power grid, according to Angela Crowley-Koch, executive director of the Oregon Solar and Storage Industries Association.

“If a [solar] project is over a mile from that transmission system, it’s far too expensive to connect a solar project to the transmission system,” Crowley-Koch said.

Large solar projects have also faced local setbacks.

Obsidian Renewables had hoped to begin construction of the Christmas Valley project in 2019, but local farmers have challenged the project in court. They bristled at converting farmland to non-farm use, but a judge ultimately sided with Obsidian.

As interest from solar developers has grown in recent years, the Oregon Department of Conservation and Land Development added land use restrictions to prevent commercial solar development on millions of acres of high-value farmland across the state.

With the project now approved, Obsidian Renewables has until February 2025 to begin construction. The company estimates that construction will take three to four years.

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