Solar power brings in the big (lease) money for Washington State

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Would you rather lease your land for $300/acre/year for 20+ years in a fixed contract (probably with a 1-3% escalator)? Or for $2/acre/year? The State of Washington has put pen to paper with an answer.

Avangrid Renewables has signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Puget Sound Energy (PSE) for their currently under development 150 MWac / ~190 MWdc solar power plant located in Klickitat County, Washington – named the Lund Hill Solar Project. The project’s electricity will be sold through the utility’s Green Direct program which sells 100% green energy options to commercial entities.

The facility would utilize an estimated 515,700 solar modules on single-axis tracker systems which would have maximum height of 14 feet when rotated to their full extent. A total of approximately 71,625 steel posts for the trackers would be installed in concrete foundations. A battery energy storage system, consisting of a series of up to fifty (50) 40-foot by 8-foot containers capable of storing 2 MW per container, would be located adjacent to the collector substation within the project’s 48,000 feet of 6′ tall chain link fence (with barbed wire on the top).

The project will utilize either the current Big Horn operation and maintenance (O&M) building, or a new 5,000-square-foot O&M building within the siting area. It will also use existing roads to the extent practicable, as well as new access roads that will be constructed for this project. Lund Hill Solar will connect to the existing Juniper Canyon Wind Farm 230-kV transmission line, which runs through the fenced area to connect to the larger energy grid via BPA’s Rock Creek Substation, located southwest of the project.

Per filings with the county (pdf), 19 individual land parcels that were within the project area – some owned by the same parties – signed agreements with the solar power developer. Thirty four land owners were located within 300 meters of the project.

The second round of PSE’s offering of the Green Direct program is already fully subscribed and will be a blend of wind and solar, with the Lund Hill Solar project supplying the solar product. The state of Washington is one of the largest customers in PSE’s Green Direct program, which has more than 40 customers signed up to receive the wind and solar power.

Lund Hill Solar will be located on approximately 1,800 acres, a mix of land leased from private landowners and the Washington Department of Natural Resources, the state’s first solar power land lease. 480 acres of that land will be leased from the State of Washington. Prior, the state was leasing the land for $2/acre/year for cattle grazing. The goal is to have 500 megawatts of solar capacity operating on leased state lands by 2025.

From the Seattle Times coverage of the project:

In the fall of 2018, developer Strata Solar and construction contractor Swinerton Renewables Energy 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. This plant is currently the state’s largest.

The largest currently known project under development in the state was announced in the spring of 2018 by mining company TransAlta. The 180 MW plant is planned to cover a former coal mine that the company owns, however the current status of this project is unclear, as it did not have a power purchase agreement at the time it was covered by pv magazine.