Portland utility's new facility to withstand 'the big one'
Portland General Electric has broken ground on a major new integrated operations center in Tualatin, which officials say will be resilient in the case of manmade and natural disasters while also improving the day-to-day operations of the company and its employees.
The center is being built on 43 acres along the southeast corner of Tualatin-Sherwood Road and the 124th Avenue extension. The PGE Integrated Operations Center will house between 250 to 350 employees in a 108,000-square-foot facility.
PGE spokesperson Steve Corson said one of the major elements of the new building will be its ability to withstand a predicted magnitude-9.0 earthquake expected to strike off the Oregon coast sometime in the future.
Since it will be built to much higher seismic standards, Corson said the operations center would be expected to survive the big earthquake more or less intact, with employees coming back to it to "start putting the (electrical) grid back together" with as little disruption as possible.
That's not the case with other PGE buildings, Corson said. In other buildings, Corson said, "we have reasonable assurances of being able to get out of the building alive and take stock, but we can't guarantee that we would be able to come back into the building and go back to work."
He said the facility will also be used to help manage PGE's renewal energy grid as well.
Corson said the building would not replace the administrative headquarters at the World Trade Center in Portland.
"It's not a one-to-one replacement for anything we've got now," Corson said. "It's more of an improvement and efficiency of how we operate and complement to what (we) currently have in place. The expectation is that we will be able to bring the building into service in late 2021."
In addition to a 12,700-square-foot utility yard screened by a wall or landscaping, access to the site will be made from a new section of Southwest Blake Street, off of the 125th Avenue extension.
Also included in the plans is a helicopter landing pad.
"We have a helicopter and we use it every day for a variety of functions for patrolling lines and inspecting lines," Corson said. It's used by PGE biologists for hydro-project work involving fish passage and recovery efforts that track fish through the use of radio transmitter tags.
Still, Corson said PGE didn't expect to fly out of the site frequently.
PGE provides power transmission and distribution services to more than 40% of the state's residents, largely in the Portland and Salem areas.
PGE already has a foothold in Tualatin, operating the Avery Service Center on Avery Street, which houses engineering and substation employees as well as a customer service call center, and operations located on Southwest Mohawk Street. Both of those facilities hold about 300 employees, Corson said.
"We have quite a large presence in Tualatin," Corson pointed out.
Tualatin Mayor Frank Bubenik said he is excited to welcome the PGE facility to Tualatin.
By Ray Pitz
News Editor, The Times
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