Oregon utility builds nation’s first large-scale wind, solar and battery facility
Nestled in the hills of Morrow County, hundreds of solar panels and wind turbines are generating a product that will soon be in high demand around the state — clean electric energy.
But storing large amounts of renewable energy has proven challenging. Wind and solar only generate power when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Otherwise, fossil fuels kick back in. Now, one major utility in Oregon is trying to produce energy 24/7 with a boost from a critical component — batteries.
Portland General Electric built a first-of-its-kind facility that will use an innovative battery technology supporters are calling a “game-changer” for Oregon’s renewable energy transition. The batteries allow the Lexington facility to capture and store electricity even when there’s no sun or wind available.
“I think you’re going to see more of these types of facilities in the future,” said Kristen Sheeran, PGE’s director of sustainability strategy, on a recent tour. “We’re still in the early years of battery storage technology development.”
The Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility is about 30 miles from the utility’s now shuttered Boardman coal plant and uses the same transmission lines. It started operating in March and generates 350 megawatts of clean energy — enough to power about 100,000 homes. The batteries store 30 megawatts, or enough to power the city of Tigard for four hours.
PGE’s push for clean energy is driven in large part by House Bill 2021. It’s one of the nation’s most ambitious climate plans, and was signed into law in 2021 by Gov. Kate Brown. The law requires utilities like PGE and Pacific Power to reduce carbon emissions by 100% by 2040.
Sheeran said battery storage will help them get there by improving reliability and creating storage that allows the facility to function 24/7.
“Sites like this are fitting into sort of a larger grid network of providing reliable, renewable power that utilities across the West are increasingly drawing on,” Sheeran said.
To develop Wheatridge, PGE partnered with NextEra Energy Resources, one of the world’s largest generators of wind and solar energy and a leader in integrated battery storage systems.
David Lawlor, NextEra’s director of development for the Pacific Northwest, said as battery technology advances, the facility will be able to handle more storage. Right now, there are 21 large and small battery containers at the facility.