The Oregon Dept. of Transportation and Portland General Electric broke ground Tuesday for a $10 million solar energy project at the Baldock rest area on I-5 just south of Wilsonville, OR.

Almost 7,000 solar panels will be distributed over 7 acres of land behind the rest area, according to a report in the Oregonian. The facility will generate up to 1.97 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year and should be up and running by January 2012.

Bank of America is the owner and tax equity partner under a sale-leaseback transaction with PGE. PGE 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 state and federal credits.

Oregon taxpayers are the biggest contributors to the project in the form of a business energy tax credit equal to nearly 50% of its cost. Federal tax breaks are good for another 30% of the cost. Oregon ratepayers contributed $1.75 million.

An interpretive display will be installed at the rest stop so travelers can learn about the solar energy project.