Pacific NW boasts country's largest solar highway and energy efficiency initiatives


By: SGN Staff

They may do a lot of things bigger in Texas, but the Pacific Northwest has bragging rights too. SGN reported in June on the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project, the country's largest smart grid initiative. Now the region can boast about the country's largest solar highway and energy efficiency initiatives.


In Oregon, Portland General Electric (PGE) and partner the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) have opened the Baldock Solar Station, a  1.75-megawatt 6,994 solar panel array that spreads over seven acres adjoining farm fields and the Baldock Safety Rest Area south of Wilsonville on Interstate 5. The project broke ground in January and a solar energy interpretive display opened this week to give travelers taking a break the opportunity to learn about solar power and the state's solar highway installations.


All project materials and services, including solar panels and inverters, consulting and construction were provided by Oregon companies. The $10 million solar highway project is the second undertaken by PGE and ODOT and is expected to provide the equivalent of 11% of ODOT's power needs within PGE's service area.


BIG on energy efficiency too...

North Pacific Paper Corporation's (NORPAC) paper mill in Longview, Washington is the largest newsprint and specialty paper mill in North America - and it's also the state's largest industrial electricity customer. Faced with high manufacturing costs and a declining market for newsprint, NORPAC President Paul Whyatt says "Conserving and mitigating the costs of electricity is core to our survival."


While NORPAC wasn't thinking about conducting the biggest energy efficiency program in the country, that's what happened. A DOE news release quotes ESource energy experts as saying they couldn't find a report project that has saved more energy.


A lot of water, wood and power is needed to make paper and the process starts with refining wood chips, the most energy-intensive part of the process. With funding from the Bonneville Power Administration and the local electric utility, Cowlitz PUD, NORPAC is installing new equipment between the machines that refine the wood chips that cuts and amount of electricity and chemicals needed. "It's the first commercial installation of this technology in the world," said Ray Harrison, NORPAC fiber line manager.


Without going into mounds of technical detail about the processes, the Chip Pretreatment Interstage Screen Project's improvements in refining processes are expected to cut NORPAC's power needs by about 12%. When it's finished, the project is expected to save the company 100 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to provide power to 8,000 Northwest homes.