Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Corvallis Municipal Airport (KCVO), Benton County, Oregon: New solar array

A new solar array with the capacity to power about 50 homes was unveiled Monday at the Corvallis Municipal Airport on land that had once been an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.

“It’s about the best use for a polluted site, to help prevent pollution,” said Scott Bolton, a senior vice president with Pacific Power.

The utility’s Blue Sky program, which allows customers to support renewable energy by paying a premium on their bills, funded the bulk of the $278,000 project with additional funds provided by the Energy Trust of Oregon. The city of Corvallis owns the 100 kilowatt array and expects that it will produce enough energy to power most of its daily electricity needs at the airport.

The city and the funders of the project celebrated the new array with a ceremony Monday afternoon.

Corvallis Mayor Biff Traber noted that many Corvallis residents have installed rooftop arrays at their homes; the new array and others at city facilities, he said, are a way for the city to follow the example of its residents.

“The city is taking advantage of this; we weren’t the ones who funded this,” he said.

Sara Gelser, the state senator representing Corvallis, said small solar arrays like the one at the airport help the state prepare for potential disasters by having local sources of power.

“It’s a great day to celebrate Oregon’s leaderships in renewable energy,” she said.

Bolton said eight of Pacific Power’s 80 Blue Sky projects are in Corvallis; the city boasts about 5,000 Blue Sky subscribers out of the 58,000 subscribers in Oregon.

“Corvallis is punching above its weight class in terms of subscribers,” he said.

The solar panels in the array were installed on concrete foundations that were placed above the ground, so the toxic hexavalent chromium waste in the ground was not disturbed. The site was formerly home to United Chrome, and the city of Corvallis has spent decades and more than $4 million cleaning up the site.

“You are greening the energy grid on a former brown field site, which is a really amazing story,” said Bolton.

Bolton said smaller projects like this help "de-carbonize" Pacific Power’s energy sources and he said that the company seeks to move as rapidly as is practical away from carbon energy sources such as coal. But he noted that the biggest impact comes from utility-level projects such as wind farms and large solar installations in areas with year-round sun, like south-central Oregon and nearby states like Nevada and Utah. Bolton said the largest solar arrays in Oregon have 8 to 9 megawatts of capacity, but in Utah many have 80 megawatts of capacity.

In a meeting with the Gazette-Times editorial board before the airport ceremony, Bolton said that even if federal policy becomes less favorable to renewable energy under the Trump administration, the company still would be moving toward renewables because states like Oregon, Washington and California are unlikely to follow the administration's lead.

And, he said, de-carbonizing makes business sense as well: He said it reduces the risk of rate increases to customers if fuel costs rise and it places the company in a good position if Oregon and other states implement carbon taxes or cap and trade policies.

“De-carbonization is not political, it’s a risk management strategy,” he said.

Bolton said about 15 percent of the company’s energy in Oregon comes from renewable sources, not including hydroelectric, and the company is working to double that by 2020. Coal now makes up less than 60 percent of its power sources, he said.

To meet its goal of doubling renewable power as a part of its energy portfolio, Pacific Power is seeking regulatory approval on a $3.5 billion proposal that seeks to put longer blades on its existing wind turbines, he said, which would allow them to generate more power and operate with lower levels of wind while not adding new turbines.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.gazettetimes.com

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