PGE Solar Project Receives
by Michael Rose
Acres of solar cells, generating about 4.16 megawatts of electricity, might someday cover property near Salem city limits.
Portland General Electric has made progress in its efforts to develop a solar power generating site in Marion County. A hearings officer on Wednesday recommended that Marion County grant a zone change and comprehensive plan amendment needed for PGE's proposed "solar photovoltaic generating plant."
The solar cells would be located on vacant PGE property south of Auburn Road NE and along Hampden Lane NE, immediately north of PGE's Bethel Power Substation. PGE has discussed covering about half of the 52-acre site with solar cells.
PGE still needs a final approval from the Marion County of Board of Commissioners before the zoning and land use change is granted, and a public hearing is required.
The county hasn't yet scheduled a date for the public hearing.
A few neighbors have raised concerns about PGE's plans, such as the appearance of the solar cell field, the humming sound of inverters and the loss of an area used for farmland.
Michael Johnson, chairman of the East Salem Suburban Neighborhood Association, said neighbors have questions about PGE's proposal. Some have proposed a meeting with PGE to see if farming could continue on portions of the site, he said.
The hearings officer has recommended landscaping to hide a security fence from view and a noise mitigation plan.
"I don't see anything in there that would be an obstruction or limitation (to building the solar field)," said Jeffrey Tross, a Salem land use consultant working with PGE.
Steve Corson, a PGE spokesman, said the company's board still needs to agree to build the project. The site in Marion County could become the largest solar cell site owned by PGE, he said.
The utility also has purchase agreements to buy electricity from solar cell sites owned by other companies in Yamhill County and Eastern Oregon.
About the property
Since the 1970s, Portland General Electric has owned the vacant property where it has proposed building a solar cell field.
The land in Marion County served as a buffer for the Bethel Power Plant, which was decommissioned in the mid-1990s.
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