LAKEVIEW, Ore. — Work is nearly done on a project that puts Southern Oregon, especially southeast Oregon on the state map for renewable energy. A big solar power generation facility on the outskirts of Lakeview is the largest solar farm in Oregon so far.
There’s really nothing like it until now in Southern Oregon: 20 acres of solar panels – 11,000 panels to be exact. All together they are designed to generate about two megawatts of electricity just from the sun, and you can hardly even tell it’s on the southwest side of Lakeview.
“We have a low impact approach to it. We don’t like to come in and re-grade or re-surface the site at all. We try to maintain as much native vegetation as possible,” explains Jerime Cope, the project superintendent.
The motors actually turn the shaft, which helps the solar panels track and follow the sun. That way they’re always in the most direct rays generating the most possible electricity.
“These tracking systems are actually capable of working in uneven terrain. So, the tracker can actually be up and down row-to-row, array-to-array, block-to-block,” Cope explains. “So we can utilize the natural landscape without modifying it more than necessary.”
Lakeview City and Lake County officials toured the project last week, and say they are impressed with the speed with which the project is being done, and that 80-90% of the two-dozen workers here were hired locally. They hope it will open the door to more projects.
“The process for this project undoubtedly was not too difficult for the company to go through, so I think more companies in the future are going to be looking at us,” says Lake County Commissioner, Dan Shoun.
Shoun points to the county’s open spaces, wind and geo-thermal possibilities for future development. Jerime Cope says his company hopes to be involved in more solar projects in Southern Oregon that will be triple the capacity of this one. He would not elaborate.
Construction on the solar farm began in late April and should be done by this time next month. That’s when the project is expected to generate enough electricity for Pacific Power to light about 400 homes.