A consortium composed of Portland General Electric and NextEra Energy will construct and operate a new renewable energy facility in eastern Oregon. Dubbed the Wheatland Renewable Energy Facility, it will feature 120 wind turbines capable of producing 300 megawatts of electricity in addition to 50 megawatts of solar power. What is unique about Wheatland is that in addition to co-locating wind and solar at the same site, it will also feature 30 megawatts of battery storage onsite as well.
“We’re moving aggressively to integrate smart grid technologies and renewable energy to give customers affordable, clean, low-carbon energy,” said Maria Pope, CEO of PGE (which is not to be confused with PG&E). “Wheatridge will be a model for integrating renewable generation and storage to cost-effectively reduce emissions while maintaining a reliable grid.”
PGE will own 100 MW of the wind project, according to a report by Renewable Energy magazine. A subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources will own the balance of the project and sell its output to PGE under 30-year power purchase agreements. A subsidiary of NextEra Energy will build and operate the combined facility. The split ownership and PPA structure will allow the two energy companies to share project risks and benefits.
The wind turbine portion of the project is slated for completion by the end of 2020. The solar and storage portion will follow within two years. Once the wind turbines begin operating, PGE will have more than 1 gigawatt of wind energy available for its customers — enough to power 340,000 homes. When the solar and storage pieces are completed, 50% of the electricity PGE distributes will be derived from renewable sources.
In total, PGE will invest $160 million in the Wheatland project. The amount of money NextEra Energy is contributing has not been disclosed. Who will supply the solar panels and battery storage equipment has not yet been determined. The facility will employ up to 300 workers during the wind turbine construction phase and 170 to build and install the solar panels and battery storage components. 10 full time employees will maintain and operate it after it is completed. PGE says it is too soon to say how Wheatland will affect utility rates, according to Oregon Live, but Wheatridge was the least expensive option for meeting Oregon’s clean energy mandate.
“We’re pleased to work with Portland General Electric on the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility, an exciting opportunity to combine wind, solar and energy storage. This venture will allow PGE’s customers to benefit from more renewable energy over more hours of the day and create substantial economic value for the communities that host this project, many of whom stand to benefit for years to come,” said Armando Pimentel, president and CEO of NextEra Energy Resources.
General Electric used to be a world leader in natural gas generating technology, but changes in that market brought on by the rise of renewables and concerns about a warming planet decimate its conventional power generation business. GE is now trying to tap the renewable energy market. Its GE Renewable Energy division will build the wind turbines for the Wheatland project.
Wheatland will be the first combined wind, solar, and storage facility in Oregon. At 30 MW, its battery storage capacity will be one of the largest in the United States. Getting to this point has been a hard slog, however. The project was first conceived as a wind only facility by Swaggart Wind Power in 2009. That’s when the permitting process began. NextEra took it over in 2017 and the decision to add solar and storage was made jointly by it and PGE.
The permitting of any major utility installation can take an agonizingly long time to complete. The good news is, in the meantime, the cost of wind and solar and storage have all dropped by 50% or more.