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Portland reaches 100 percent renewable goal for City operations

The City of Portland will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy for fiscal year 2015-2016. Last year (FY 2014-15), the City got very close, reaching 71 percent, but this is the first year that Portland has met the 100 percent goal.

In 2015, Portland City Council adopted the Sustainable City Government 2030 Environmental Performance Objectives, directing City operations to purchase or generate clean power for 100 percent of electricity needs.

The 2015 Climate Action Plan further calls for 15 percent of the City’s electricity use to be from onsite generation of renewable energy, like solar and biogas. For this current fiscal year, seven percent of the City’s electricity came from onsite renewable energy generation assets.

Thanks to Mayor Charlie Hales’ staunch support of solar for City operations, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has been working steadily to increase the amount of solar electric capacity installed on City facilities. Two new installations currently underway move the City closer to achieving our onsite energy generation goal of 15 percent.

North Police Precinct

Currently under construction and expected to be completed by mid-January 2017, the North Police Precinct station will be topped off with a 63 kilowatt solar electric system, which will produce about 70,000 kWh annually. This translates into a reduction of the power purchased from the electric utility by approximately 6 percent and will save about $6,650 in annual electricity costs.

Funded through a generous grant from Pacific Power’s Blue Sky program, all of the renewable electricity produced onsite will be used by the North Police Precinct building. Savings from the onsite energy production will flow through the operating budget of the Portland Police Bureau, city General Fund and ultimately passed on to taxpayers.

The North Precinct site at NE Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard and NE Killingsworth streets was chosen because of its prominence in the neighborhood and its suitability as a solar system host. The building has excellent access to the sun, a brand new roof and approval from Police Bureau leadership and the facility managers. Further, the project has strong support from the local businesses, schools and neighbors.

Fire Station 1

Last month, the City was selected for funding from Portland General Electric’s Renewable Development Fund grant program to pilot our first solar-plus-storage facility at Fire Station 1. Located at SW Naito Parkway and SW Ash Street, Fire Station 1 is the main incident command post for Portland Fire & Rescue.

This project is intended to increase the resiliency of critical City infrastructure in the event of a prolonged power outage, like the Cascadia subduction zone earthquake. Unlike traditional back-up generators that run on fossil fuels, solar plus storage installations are designed to keep critical power loads functioning with a renewable power source (the sun!) for a prolonged period of time. The new system will save $3,300 annually in electricity costs.

As more photovoltaic (PV) and energy storage systems come online, the importance of training first responders how to use these types of systems will continue to grow. The Fire Station 1 installation will help others in the firefighting and emergency response communities learn how to design and use solar-plus-storage installations.

This project would not be possible without the grant from PGE. Energy Trust of Oregon will provide technical assistance with the design and feasibility analysis.

Purchasing Renewables

The remainder of the City’s renewable electricity goal is being met by purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs). The City purchases RECs to address the remaining electricity purchased from the utility companies. RECs offset the City’s use of fossil-fuel based power.

RECs represent the environmental, social and non-power attributes of renewable electricity generation. They are the accepted legal instrument used to substantiate renewable electricity use claims. 

For fiscal year 2015-16, the City is purchasing 128,383 megawatt-hours (128,383,000 kWh) of renewable electricity use in City operations. That’s enough electricity to power about 1,300 Portland homes for one year!

RECs represent a majority of the City’s renewable electricity portfolio for the time being. However, the City intends to keep adding more onsite renewable energy generation so that over time, the REC portion of our electricity mix will decrease.

Thanks to installations like North Police Precinct and Fire Station 1, and with thanks to Office of Management and Finance, Portland Water Bureau, Bureau of Environmental Services, Portland Bureau of Transportation, Portland Parks and Recreation and Portland Fire and Rescue for purchasing RECs, the City will meet its 100 percent renewable electricity goal for the first time!