What would be Washington’s largest solar energy installation by a magnitude of more than five is being planned for a 1,700-acre site near Bickleton.
Aurora Solar, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Avangrid Renewables, LLC, is proposing to develop a 150-megawatt solar energy facility on mostly leased private property located about eight miles south of Bickleton.
One section of land Avangrid/Aurora want to include in the siting area is owned by the Washington Department of Natural Resources; Aurora is negotiating with DNR to execute a lease to that property.
According to Klickitat County planning documents, the project is located adjacent to existing wind energy facilities. Three of them (the 151.2 MW Juniper Canyon, 199.5 MW Big Horn, and 50 MW Big Horn II) are owned by Portland-based Avangrid. The siting area would overlap portions of the Juniper Canyon and Big Horn wind projects.
Aurora Solar’s proposed Lund Hill Solar Project is being processed by the County Planning Department under the County’s Energy Overlay Zone (EOZ). An environmental impact statement (EIS) is being prepared pursuant to RCW 43.21, the State Environmental Policy Act. The EIS will ad-dress No Action and Action alternatives in relation to environmental elements and cumulative impacts. Avangrid/Aurora has retained Tetra Tech, of Pasadena, Calif., as the consulting firm.
The project also will address the development standards outlined in the Energy Overlay Zone, among other things. It will re-quire a conditional use permit from the County Board of Adjustment before construction could begin.
Paul Copleman, communications manager for Avangrid Renewables, told The Enterprise last month Avangrid “began our permitting due diligence in support the current EOZ application at the beginning of 2018.”
That led up to a Dec. 13 public meeting in Bickleton at which Aurora Solar reveal-ed its proposed Lund Hill Solar Project to the community. Scoping for the EIS ended Dec. 21.
Copleman said Avangrid/Aurora analyze many attributes “in order to identify a potential solar site location.”
“A couple of the key factors that guided us to this proposed location were the topography and its proximity to our existing Juniper Canyon Wind Project’s transmission line,” he continued.
Copleman said the Lund Hill Solar Project would be built in a single phase “but will plan for the flexibility to build in phases.” He declined to state a possible construction budget for the project.
“We treat the construction budget as proprietary, but as one recent example, our 56 MW Gala Solar Plant outside Prineville, represented a $120 million investment in the state” of Oregon.
“A lot goes into siting a solar energy facility, but each project is different and goes through a rigorous permitting and evaluation process,” Copleman explained. “Ultimately, each project broadly has to bring together a good combination of solar exposure, access to the energy grid, and be a fit with the land and the community. Those factors essentially drive the evaluation of all of our renewable projects around the country.”
Washington’s largest solar farm is a 28 MW facility near Lind in Adams County that began commercial power production last month.
A second 25 MW solar farm on irrigated farmland in Kittitas County was permitted last October by Gov. Jay Inslee, per the State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council’s terms and conditions, over the objections of Kittitas County officials and residents. This project is expected to be completed by the fall of 2019, according to its sponsor.