Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez joined the Oregon Department of Transportation and representatives from public and private partner organizations to break ground this week on Oregon's second solar highway project.

The project comprises almost 7,000 panels spread over 7 acres of land at the Baldock Rest Areas on Interstate 5 north near Wilsonville. When complete, the $10 million solar array will produce nearly 9%, or 1.97 million kilowatt hours, of ODOT's power needs in the Portland General Electric service area. The array is expected to begin generation in January.

In the public-private partnership, Bank of America is the owner and "tax equity partner" for the deal under a sale-leaseback transaction with PGE, which will build, operate and buy power from the project. PGE has the option to buy the project after six years when the bank has realized the state and federal credits.

Renewable energy credits generated by the project will help ODOT and PGE meet renewable energy and carbon reduction targets.

The project is substantially larger than Oregon's first solar highway, which began operating in 2008. That array, the first of its kind in the country, comprised 594 panels and produced 104-kilowatts ground-mounted solar array. It is situated at the interchange of Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 south of Portland, Oregon, and offsets over one-third of the energy needed for freeway illumination at the site.