In 2008, Darren Murtaugh was given a mission: Determine what solar power could look like at PGE’s substations. He answered with a plan for a pilot solar project at three of them. A small project? Maybe. But to Murtaugh, it’s a statement to our customers: We hear you.
“Our customers don’t have to spend the extra money for renewable power, yet they do. Because of them, we have the nation’s most popular renewable power program,” says Murtaugh, an electrical engineer at PGE. “They’re doing it for a reason, because they want to see us be more sustainable. Bringing solar to our substations is a visible way of demonstrating that we’re doing just that.”
(Substations transform electricity voltage from high to lower to make it distributable to end-users.)
Thirty solar panels will be installed in all: ten at the Scholls Ferry substation in Beaverton, five at the Alder substation off Southeast Belmont Street, and 15 at the Horizon substation in Hillsboro.
Making a difference
The Scholls Ferry and Alder sites have been operational since June 2011, and Murtaugh says the data on them is already impressive.
The panels provide enough electricity to run many of their susbstations’ local systems. By December 2011 they had also offset 2,675 pounds of carbon, or the equivalent of planting 140 trees.
PGE also has solar projects in the form of two panel arrays powering the Baldock Rest Area and the I-5/205 interchange. Murtaugh says if the substation project continues to prove viable, PGE may consider placing solar panels on its utility poles.
Everything in moderation
“We know it’s good to have a diversified power portfolio,” he says. “And I think that’s also best for our environment. When you use multiple resources, it gives you that ‘everything-in-moderation’ approach. And solar provides a reliable supplement to our wind farms.”
One of the things Murtaugh loves about his job is that PGE supports and believes in renewable energy.
“This company is very forward-thinking and willing to investigate some of these technologies,” he says. “It is willing to ask, ‘What makes sense and how can we make it economical?’ If you’re interested in alternative energy, it’s a great place to be.”