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Reaching for the sun

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Articles - September 2012
Monday, August 27, 2012


Driving headlong on Interstate 5 past the Baldock rest area south of Wilsonville, you catch a glimmer out of the corner of your eye that looks a little like shimmery water in the middle of farm fields. Unless you stop to get coffee or stretch your legs, and then make your way to the back of the rest area, you’ll likely miss the fact that the shimmery thing is almost 7,000 solar panels. Years of planning, many partnerships and $10 million have created the 1.75-megawatt Baldock Solar Highway Project, the second project developed under the Oregon Solar Highway Program and the largest of its kind in the nation. The array at the 1-5/I-205 interchange was the nation’s first solar highway project. Construction on the Baldock project began Aug. 23, 2011, and the array went online Jan. 17, 2012. In between, we documented how a unique solar project was built.

0912 ReachingForTheSun 19

How the power flows

The power from groups of solar panels goes into a collector panel on the racking system, which then feeds back to DC switchgear cabinets. The DC switchgear cabinet is then connected to a solar inverter that converts the DC power coming from the solar panel to AC power. The power then goes into an AC switchgear cabinet that feeds out to a PGE 2000KVA transformer.

Key project partners

  • Aadland Evans Constructors, Portland: general contractor 
  • Advanced Energy Industries/PV Powered, Bend:designed, built inverters 
  • Advanced Energy Systems, Eugene: solar-power designer, installer 
  • Bank of America: financing, along with PGE’s Clean Wind program and the state’s Business Energy Tax Credit program 
  • Christenson Electric, Portland: electrical contracting services 
  • Energy Trust of Oregon: utility incentive funding 
  • Five Stars International, Salem: consulting 
  • Good Company, Eugene:
  • greenhouse gas analysis 
  • HatiCon Solar and SAPA Group, Portland: panel support frames 
  • Moyano Leadership Group, Salem: project manager, design leader 
  • Oregon Dept. of Transportation: provided 7 acres of land 
  • PGE: builder, operator of the project 
  • PHC Northwest, Portland: security lighting 
  • Sea Reach, Sheridan: interpretive display signs 
  • SolarWorld, Hillsboro: supplied the solar panels

“If you can put solar at the exchange of two major interstates, you’ve taken a mountaintop. In public service, you aren’t rewarded for taking risk. This had never been done before. The 1-5/I205 solar project was the first in the Americas. [These agencies] have never been engaged in this before. This array takes us beyond the era of the dinosaur, where we are dependent on oil. With the solar highway, we are saying we have a choice. We’re using energy not taken from the earth but given to us by the sun.’’ -Lynn Frank, President, Five Stars International



+1 #1 How much for SolarGuest 2012-08-28 17:48:40
Interesting project, what would it cost to replace the output with conventional power?
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0 #2 PresidentGuest 2012-08-28 18:55:55
This project is a great use of a natural resource for our nation. A good use of contractors and products of Oregon. This will have far less impact than the upcoming wave energy projects that will soon be dotting our Oregon Coast. Money well spent.
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