Solar Farm locations

The afternoon sun lights up the sky above a proposed solar farm location in a field off Umptanum Road southwest of Ellensburg, Wednesday. The Urtica location is one of five solar projects proposed by TUUSSO Energy under review by the state. Meanwhile, Kittitas County commissioners on Wednesday agreed to extend a moratorium on new commercial solar projects.

Kittitas County commissioners on Wednesday unanimously extended a moratorium on new commercial solar facilities for another six months.

Commissioners originally implemented the moratorium on commercial solar farms a year ago after turning down a proposed solar project near Kittitas. The goal of the moratorium was to give the county time to work out new rules.

Commissioners on Wednesday agreed to extend the moratorium until July 10, or until new rules are adopted, whichever comes first.

Marlene Pfeifer, a member of the Solar Facilities Citizen Advisory Committee, supported extending the moratorium. The committee has been working on new rules for commissioners’ review since September.

Commissioner Obie O’Brien said though it may disappoint some people that the decision is delayed, he is in support of the committee taking more time.

Commissioner Laura Osiadacz said the discussion over the location of solar facilities, especially as it relates to agricultural land, is an important one.

“Taking the time to look at land use and see where the commercial solar facilities make sense within Kittitas County is something that is an important thing to do, because it’s going to shape what our county will look like for generations to come,” she said.

The committee is expected to finish a final draft within the next couple of weeks, Community Development Services Director Dan Carlson said.

Pfeifer said the committee might need another couple of meetings to finish its recommendations.

The moratorium does not apply to residential solar panels on people’s homes.

TUUSSO PROJECT

Meanwhile, TUUSSO Energy has an application pending in front of a state panel to build five solar projects in the Ellensburg area, in effect bypassing the county moratorium and permitting process.

The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council had a public meeting about the projects last month in Ellensburg.

The projects would be 35-50 acres each and sit on active or fallow agricultural land. The solar panels will each generate approximately about 11,500 megawatts a year, meeting the electricity needs of approximately 1,000 homes.

TUUSSO has requested expedited review from the state. Kittitas County objected in an 18-page legal brief filed with EFSEC last month, saying expedited review wasn’t appropriate because the project doesn’t comply with local land use rules and violates rural character.

Kate Griffith, communication and media manager for EFSEC, said the panel expects to hear an update on TUUSSO’s Columbia Solar Project during its monthly meeting on Jan. 16. A decision about expedited processing will come in February at the earliest, she said in an email.

The state council, made up representatives from several state agencies, is charged with making a recommendation to the governor about the project.

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