Nation’s First Solar Highway Breaks Ground in Oregon

The nation’s largest solar highway project broke ground in Oregon at the end of August, but that’s not all that distinguishes it. All the components for the project are Oregon-made, contributing to the local economy.

Baldock Solar Highway consists of 7000 solar PV panels that will produce 1.75 megawatt (MW) on Interstate 5 near Wilsonville, Oregon.

You’ll find it at the Baldock Safety Rest Area on seven acres owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). The project is a public-private partnership between ODOT and Portland General Electric (PGE).

When it’s completed in 2012, it will generate 9% of the power ODOT buys from PGE. 

The project is all made in Oregon – PGE is installing the panels, which are produced by SolarWorld of Hillsboro,OR. with solar inverters provided by Advanced Energy of Bend, OR.  

It will also help PGE meet the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of sourcing 25% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025.

The $10 million project will include an interpretive display where visitors can view the array and learn about it and Oregon’s other solar highway installations.

The project is funded by the Energy Trust of Oregon, PGE’s Clean Wind program and the state’s Business Energy Tax Credit program. Bank of America is financing it.

A pilot project consisting of 594 solar panels has been operating since 2008, and other solar installations are being contemplated by the state as well.

"These companies are helping diversify Oregon’s economy and build our state’s reputation as a solar manufacturing hub, says "Jim Piro, PGE CEO. 

"We’re accomplishing more than just installing a solar array: we’re supporting local businesses, local workers and the state economy," says Matt Garrett, ODOT Director.

If solar arrays were on the 8 million miles of right-of-way along US highways, it could supply all the electricity needed to power our highways, about 50 million kilowatt hours a year.

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