PGE, NextEra team up for largest wind-solar-storage project in US

Feb 19, 2019

Robert Walton | Utility Dive | February 14, 2019

Dive Brief

  • Portland General Electric (PGE) is planning to develop a first-of-its-kind renewable energy facility that would combine utility-scale wind, solar and energy storage. Once completed, PGE will be able to supply about 50% of its customers’ electricity needs with emissions-free generation, the company said on Tuesday.
  • The project, known as Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility, will combine 300 MW of wind generation, 50 MW of solar and 30 MW of battery storage. It will come online in stages beginning with wind generation in 2020.
  • PGE will develop and jointly own the project with NextEra Energy Resources, which will sell its portion of the wind generation to the utility. PGE said it expects to invest approximately $160 million for its portion of the project.

Dive Insight:

Battery storage is getting added to all sorts of generation these days, including gas-fired and solar of all sizes. PGE says its plan would be a first, combining two forms of large renewables with storage — but the utility expects similar projects will follow.

PGE is moving “aggressively” to integrate smart grid technology alongside renewables, President and CEO Maria Pope said in a statement. The Wheatridge project will be “a model for integrating renewable generation and storage,” she said, in order to cost-effectively reduce emissions and balance the grid.Utility DiveYour daily guide to the electric utility industry

Development of the site’s wind generation was begun in 2009 by Swaggart Wind Power, but a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources acquired the project in 2017. NextEra and PGE then expanded the project to include solar and battery storage.

While this particular combination will not make sense for every resource PGE acquires in the future, “it definitely does point to the value of diversifying our renewable portfolio to take advantage of differing strengths,” PGE representative Steven Corson told Utility Dive. “We certainly expect to see more of this kind of thing both in our own portfolio and the broader energy industry as well.”

The project is being developed in stages, in part to access federal tax credits. 

PGE says the wind component will be online by the end of 2020, allowing it to access 100% of the federal production tax credit. Construction of the solar and battery portions of Wheatridge are planned for 2021 and will qualify for the federal investment tax credit.

GE Renewable Energy is manufacturing the 120 wind turbines, which will be located in Morrow County, Oregon. Once operational, PGE’s wind generation will exceed a nameplate capacity of 1 GW.

NextEra and PGE said they are still determining the specific solar and battery storage equipment to be used. The utility said the battery will be the largest in the state, while the solar farm will be among the largest as well.

The project caught the attention of Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who said it would provide “a well-earned economic boost to Eastern Oregon.” 

PGE will own 100 MW of the wind project, and will purchase the output of the other 200 MW from a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources under 30-year power purchase agreements.

“The split ownership and PPA structure will allow the two energy companies to share project risks and benefits,” the companies said.

The Wheatridge project is the result of a request for proposals PGE issued in May 2018. The agreements signed with NextEra will be reviewed by the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

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Oregon utilities must meet a 50% renewable portfolio standard by 2040, using a mix of resources that largely excludes legacy hydroelectric assets. The solar-wind-storage project will qualify, and should help PGE reach an internal milestone: once Wheatridge is complete, half of the energy PGE supplies will come from emissions-free sources. But not all of those resources will count towards the state’s RPS goals.

“We still have quite a bit of work to do,” said Corson.

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