PORTLAND, Ore. — One of Oregon's largest utility companies is adding to its clean energy portfolio, collaborating on a project that uses giant batteries that store wind and solar power.
Portland General Electric (PGE) is partnering with NextEra Energy Resources to run Wheatridge Power Plant in eastern Oregon's Morrow County.
The site is packed with sprawling solar panels and towering wind turbines, collecting renewable and clean power for the grid. However, before now, such power was sometimes unreliable — only supplying electricity in sunny or windy conditions
New batteries are beginning to change that dynamic.
"The battery stores that power, then releases it back to the grid during the hours of the day when neither the sun nor the wind is cooperating," explained Kristen Sheeran, director of sustainability and resources planning at PGE.
Wheatridge generates enough power for about 100,000 PGE households, and the batteries there boost consumer access to clean energy.
"Utilize that energy at those peak hours after the sun stops shining," said David Lawlor, director of business development at NextEra Energy Resources.
NextEra spokesperson Matt Eissey added that the Wheatridge facility is the first and largest of its kind in the country, serving as a model for its future projects nationwide.
"So we're always looking for that next opportunity to bring benefits to each local community in the U.S. and decarbonize the U.S. economy," Eissey said.
"We don't expect it to be the last," Sheeran said of the battery facility.
Both NextEra and PGE have ambitious goals to reach zero-emissions power output.
PGE's portfolio is currently made up of about 36% clean energy resources. The utility plans to produce 100% clean energy by 2040.
As part of that plan, PGE said it will exit its coal contract before 2030 and work to transition natural gas power to a backup capacity in times of high demand.
"Our customers have been driving us to go faster and farther in terms of clean energy," Sheeran said.