Washington’s largest solar plant comes online

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Washington isn’t exactly known as a sunny place, with its northern border being Canada and all. Additionally, with its significant volumes of hydroelectricity, it also has cheap and clean electricity. Yet somehow, the economics of the solar power project is feeding a farming family, the city tax base, and the other customers.

Developer Strata Solar and construction contractor Swinerton Renewables Energy have completed construction of the Adams Nielson Solar Power Generation Facility, a 19.2 MW-AC / 28 MW-DC solar plant comprised of 81,.700 solar modules for Avista Utilities.

The original designs specified SunGrow inverters – the SG125HV specifically, NexTracker single axis tracking, and Hanwha Q-Cells 345/350 W solar modules.

The SunTribune, a local publication, reported on some of the project’s specifics:

  • 61 customers have signed deals with the project as part of the Solect Solar program at Avista
  • The program is an eight-year commitment, limited to 1.2 million kilowatt-hours (kWh)  per year per customer, at a rate of 5.3¢/kWh
  • Adams County will receive approximately $4 million over the next 20 years in property tax revenues
  • the project will increase Adams County revenue by 1.25% per year during the life of the program

A package of environmental analysis, permits, public hearings and more can be found on the State of Washington’s project page.

The local news channel KXLY flew a drone over the site.

The project is projected to produce about 48 gigawatt-hours annually, suggesting an AC capacity factor of just above 27%, and a DC capacity factor of 19.5%.

Working under construction contractor Swinerton Renewable Energy, the equivalent of more than 150 people worked on the project over the course of 2018.

The plant provides an interesting side story. A local school was fundraising to purchase a full-color LED digital reading board, measuring 7.5 feet wide and 5 feet tall. If the students hit their fundraising goal history teacher Jason Sanger said he’d kiss a pig.

On Monday, students tallied up their sales and it turns out they raised a whopping net profit of $1,185 – but were $315 short of the goal, however, it is said Mr. Sanger will hold up his end of the deal.

On Tuesday, Avista and Strata Solar surprised the students with a check for $10,000 to purchase the new reader board in full.

The land owner, B. Jay Heider, said the site received 9 inches of rain annually, and had been used to grow winter wheat. Heider said since he and his wife never had kids, they thought to put most of the money into a local college and trade school fund for kids in the town. They’re going to name the fund after his grandpa, Ernest and grandma, Emma.

Heider also noted that this project is providing a use for less productive land

It’s my worst piece of ground on my farm, and it’s going to end up being my best piece of ground.