Where Hiking Boots Meet Energy Facility Siting
It was an absolutely pristine afternoon in Morrow County when we headed west out of Boardman for a scruffy patch of land south of Interstate 84. The wind hadn’t kicked up yet and the September sun was easy on the neck. The purpose of our travels was to take a look at the location of the proposed Boardman Solar Energy Facility. Laura Miner, representing the project applicant, Boardman Solar Energy LLC., led the tour.
Most large energy projects in Oregon must go through the state’s facility siting process to get approval for construction and operation. If Boardman Solar were completed today, it would be the largest solar electric generating facility in Oregon at 75 megawatts with a project boundary of approximately 800 acres.
Miner directed about a dozen people – many of which were members of the Siting Division at the Oregon Department of Energy – south on Three-Mile Canyon Road, then west on a bumpy gravel track better suited for a burro. We got out of our cars and walked out to the easternmost portion of the site, which, oddly enough, included portable bee hives. After about 10 minutes of Q&A, we hoofed it south, then east along a transmission line toward the western part of the site. The landscape changed from “scrub” to “grassland” as we bushwhacked toward Willow Lake. What you see on foot is always much more than you can detect from a nearby road, maps, or photos.
“Site visits are always an important part of the process,” said Todd Cornett, Assistant Director of ODOE’s Siting Division. “It gives us a chance to gather information first-hand, which helps us to better understand potential issues and concerns and evaluate project applications against facility standards.
“It’s worth the effort to physically get to places – proposed facilities may be remote to our headquarters in Salem, but they’re right next door to many Oregonians.”
Cornett and his staff held a public information meeting on the project the night before at the SAGE Center in Boardman. Though lightly attended, the meeting offered anyone interested to listen to a presentation and ask questions of ODOE staff and the applicant. The next step for the Boardman Solar project is what’s called a Draft Proposed Order on the Application for Site Certificate, which is expected to be issued by the department in November.
Later this fall, the public will have an opportunity to comment on that order via email, mail, or in person at a hearing likely scheduled in December. If you wish to get on the electronic mailing list for Boardman Solar, or any other energy project under state jurisdiction, please go to the Oregon Department of Energy’s email sign-up webpage.