The US’ first wind-solar-battery project is now online and can power around 100,000 homes

The facility can produce more than half of the power that was generated by Oregon's last coal plant.
Deena Theresa
The first utility-scale energy facility combining solar, wind, and battery storage in northern Oregon.
The first utility-scale energy facility combining solar, wind, and battery storage in northern Oregon.

Portland General Electric 

The first utility-scale energy plant of its kind combining solar power, wind power, and battery storage opened up recently and started providing power in North America. The project, called Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facilities, is co-owned by NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, and Portland General Electric (PGE).

Located in northern Oregon, the renewable energy facility comprises 30 megawatts of massive lithium batteries that can store up to 120 megawatt-hours of power, generated by the 300-megawatt wind farms and 50-megawatt solar farm, powering around 100,000 homes.

The facility can produce more than half of the power that was generated by Oregon's last coal plant, which was demolished earlier this month, reported The Sacramento Bee.

Under the partnership, PGE owns one-third of the wind output and purchases all the facility's power for its renewable energy portfolio. NextEra, which developed the site and operates it, holds two-thirds of the wind output and all of the solar output and storage, according to a press release.

Integrating wind, solar, and battery storage at such a massive scale

Though interest in solar-plus-battery projects has increased in the U.S. due to robust tax credits and the plummeting price of batteries, the Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility in Lexington is the first in the U.S. to combine integrated wind, solar, and battery storage at such a large scale in one location. This gives it the flexibility to generate continuous output that can be released to the electric grid on demand without depending on fossil fuels.

Because of their opposite power hours, solar and wind energy work hand-in-hand. The sunniest and warmest hours are during the day, and the wind tends to be strongest at night. Here, battery storage is key as it bolsters the intermittency of solar and wind energy, harnessing energy on demand.

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"If the solar is chugging along and cloud cover comes over, the battery can kick in and make sure that the output is uninterrupted. As the sun goes down and the wind comes online, the battery can make sure that that's very smooth so that it doesn't, to the grid operator, look like anything unusual," said Jason Burwen, vice president of energy storage at the American Clean Power Association, an advocacy group for the clean power industry.

Helping reduce emissions and meet goals

Renewable energy projects that incorporated storage were mostly stuck with solar because "energy storage was only incentivized under the tax code when it was associated directly and solely with a solar project," Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO at the American Council on Renewable Energy, told Utility Dive. But, the Inflation Reduction Act came to pass, and "being able to integrate wind into the mix adds a great deal [of value]."

Oregon's Clean Energy Targets Bill that passed last year established that electricity providers must reduce emissions 80 percent below baseline emissions by 2030, 90 percent by 2035, and 100 percent by 2040.

Additional hybrid systems like Wheatridge could help meet these goals. PGE is bringing online 1,500 MW to 2,000 MW of clean and renewable resources and 800 MW of non-emitting dispatchable resources.

"By supporting innovative projects like Wheatridge, we continue to accelerate renewable energy solutions for our state, communities, and customers while maintaining reliability and affordability," said Maria Pope, president and CEO of Portland General Electric. "This partnership marks a technological milestone in decarbonizing our system and making clean energy accessible to all Oregonians."

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