Support Local Journalism


Subscribe


About 20 people gathered at the Hal Holmes Community Center on Monday night to give feedback on where the county should allow new commercial solar farms.

Hosted by Kittitas County Community Development Services, the community open house included various maps and informational fliers about solar facility location.

In January, the Kittitas County commissioners placed a moratorium on major solar projects after they denied a permit for a solar farm near Kittitas, mentioning concern about the impact on rural character and agricultural lands in the county. After hearing another dozen solar projects were in the works in the county, commissioners said they wanted a time out to get rules in line.

The moratorium, which is scheduled to expire Jan. 18, 2018, doesn’t cover small-scale solar panels on homes.

A work plan has been adopted and a citizen advisory committee has been meeting for the past few months to discuss alternatives.

County planner Jeremy Johnson said that the county welcomes any feedback the public is willing to provide.

“Our goal is to get as much community input as we can,” Johnson said. “The goal is to be as thorough as possible and as close to the timeline as we can.”

Staff and committee members have talked about criteria for solar facility placement, including sites that are within three-mile radius of infrastructure (a Puget Sound Energy substation or Bonneville Power Administration right of way), less than a 5 percent slope and not in prime agriculture zoning.

A county analysis and map split land into three levels:

  • Green/Tier 1: Meet all criteria.
  • Orange/Tier 2: Meets some criteria.
  • Red/Tier 3: Meets few or no criteria.

The map was just for discussion purposes and not a staff recommendation, according to committee meeting minutes.

SOLAR BUSINESS PLANS

Seattle-based TUUSSO Energy LLC plans to build five solar power projects near Ellensburg. In a meeting with the Daily Record earlier this month, the company’s Jason Evans said the company is not waiting for the county’s moratorium to be lifted.

“As windy as Kittitas County is, its solar potential is great, too,” he said in a news release.

The facilities’ combined capacity, 25 megawatts, will power roughly 5,000 homes served by Puget Sound Energy. They would be sited on 232 acres of private agricultural lands, the release said, and will connect to PSE’s local power lines.

Each site will use ground-mounted photovoltaic polycrystalline panels arrayed on trackers spanning about 40 acres, interconnecting with Puget Sound Energy’s distribution lines.

The projects will cost about $50 million and bring in roughly $4,883,000 to the county in property taxes. The company hopes to have the project generating electricity by 2018.

REACTION

Among the attendees Monday were several members of local group Our Environment. Part of the group’s mission is bringing awareness to climate change.

Andrea Sledge, a member of Our Environment and the county’s Solar Facilities Citizen Advisory Committee, said that renewable energy is critical to better preserving natural resources.

“It’s about efficiency and economics,” Sledge said. “If you have a natural resource, you don’t use it until it’s gone. You wouldn’t spend down your 401k just because it’s there.”

Howard Lyman, a member of Our Environment and the county’s Solar Facilities Citizen Advisory Committee, said that Our Environment would not stop pushing for more renewable energy.

“The future is going to be renewable energy,” Lyman said. “That we can’t harvest the sun in Kittitas is ridiculous. We’ll probably be at this again this same time next year.”

Lyman compared the county’s regulation of solar farms to getting a driver’s license, saying that regulation is the first step to expanding solar energy.

“You do what’s required,” he said. “These are just the hoops you have to go through.”

Correction: In an article that ran on October 25, 2017, TUUSSO Energy LLC was misidentified as, "TUUSCO Energy LLC."

The article incorrectly stated that company is waiting for the county's moratorium on major solar projects.

Comments

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.