File photo from March 28, 2019, or solar panels in central Oregon. Southeast Salem’s community microgrid would store energy that could power over 90 apartment units, more than 30 homes and several office buildings during an outage.
Emily Cureton Cook / OPB
Last year’s ice storm left thousands of Salem residents without power for several days. Now, a new effort is underway to ensure the lights stay on in Southeast Salem where the state’s first community microgrid project is being built. A massive battery will provide backup power to apartments, homes and buildings during outages caused by extreme weather events.
The project is expected to be completed in late 2023 and is being done through a partnership between the City of Salem and Portland General Electric. The cost of the pilot project is being paid for by the City of Salem, PGE and the Oregon Department of Energy, which awarded a $1 million grant for its construction.
Since 2012, PGE has had an energy storage facility in Salem. The microgrid will store power it generates at this existing facility from solar panels which are being installed on a new public works building that city officials started construction on last December.
“The battery is large enough to serve that community for about two hours. When you add solar to it, depending on time of day, you can extend that up to four hours total,” Darren Murtaugh, senior manager of PGE’s Grid Edge Solutions team, said.
The microgrid is expected to power over 90 apartment units, more than 30 homes and a handful of government buildings and offices.
Trevor Smith is the public information officer for the City of Salem. Even though the backup power may only last for a few hours, it would help residents keep electronic devices charged, refrigerated food fresh and life-saving medical equipment functional.
“Our hope is this battery will be able to help people do the basic things,” he said. “They can survive that much easier.”
Darren Murtaugh and Trevor Smith joined “Think Out Loud” to discuss Oregon’s first community microgrid. You can listen to the full conversation here:
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