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Another new Tri-Cities solar project could power 11,000+ homes

Tri-City Herald logoTri-City Herald 12/2/2020 Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

About 300 acres of former Hanford nuclear reservation land is expected to see new life as a solar farm near Richland.

Energy Northwest announced Monday it had signed a letter of intent to lease the land to Tucci Energy Services for a solar project that could provide electricity to more than 11,000 homes.

Construction is projected to start in the spring of 2022 and the member utilities of Energy Northwest, which include Benton and Franklin PUDs, will be given first right of refusal for the electricity produced there.

Tucci is currently looking for customers for the electricity.

“This underscores Energy Northwest’s commitment to affordably and reliably meeting the region’s electricity needs,” said Brad Sawatzke, Energy Northwest chief executive officer.

The 300 acres was among among 1,641 acres of unneeded Hanford land transferred from the Department of Energy to the Tri-City Development Council in 2015. The land was divided among Energy Northwest, the Port of Benton and the city of Richland.

The 300 acres were conveyed to Energy Northwest in 2016 for its planned use as a solar farm, although the project was initially to be developed by French-based Neoen.

When those plans fell through, a deal was reached with Seattle-based Tucci Energy Services for 75-megawatts of photovoltaic solar panels.

“When TRIDEC and our community partners worked to transfer this land from the Department of Energy, our goal was to further establish the Tri-Cities as the ‘Clean Energy Hub of the Pacific Northwest’, and this is exactly the type of project we had in mind,” said David Reeploeg, TRIDEC vice president for federal programs.

TRIDEC says the Tri-Cities is well suited for solar energy because it has the available land, the infrastructure to support power projects and abundant sunshine.

The project shows the global interest in generating clean energy in the Tri-Cities area while helping the area’s economy, said Miles Thomas director of economic development for the Port of Benton.

2nd recent solar project

Once Tucci expressed interest in developing the 300 acres in October, the deal came together quickly.

The land is just north of another project that Energy Northwest and Tucci cooperated on, the Horn Rapids Solar, Storage and Training Project on Horn Rapids Road just north of Richland.

That project powered up this fall with 11,400 new solar panels providing enough electricity for about 600 Richland homes. It includes battery energy storage, with Tucci owning and operating the solar panels and Energy Northwest owning and operating the battery storage system.

The 20-acre project also houses a training program for solar and battery storage technicians that will be run by Potelco, Inc., an electric utility contracting firm based in Sumner, Wash.

Potelco also will play a role in the new solar farm to be constructed, serving as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor.

Interest in renewable energy projects has increased in Washington state after the Clean Energy Transformation Act required utilities to use an electricity supply free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

“With a combination of renewables, battery storage, hydroelectric power and existing and new nuclear, we believe the region can affordably achieve 100% carbon-free electricity,” Sawatzke said.

Energy Northwest operates the Columbia Generating Station, the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant and is interest in new nuclear projects. It also has smaller wind, solar, battery storage and hydroelectric power projects.

In addition, Scout Clean Energy of Colorado plans a clean energy project just south of Kennewick in the Horse Heaven Hills with wind, solar and battery storage.

TRIDEC says that already 40% of Washington state’s power is produced within a 100-mile radius of the Tri-Cities.

The Hanford nuclear reservation, currently covering 580 square miles, was built on government and private land seized during World War II to produce plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

Because of the Hanford site’s size, large portions of land had no nuclear development or contamination.

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©2020 Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)

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