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Regional News

Avista Celebrates Its New Solar Farm In Central Washington

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Avista has added a new, large solar project to its energy portfolio. The Spokane-based utility held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the central Washington town of Lind today [Tuesday] to mark the occasion.

The solar farm covers part of a hillside above Lind in Adams County. It’s about 15 miles southwest of Ritzville. The project covers about 200 acres and features solar panels as far as the eye can see, nearly 82,000 of them. When it goes online in December, the project is expected to produce enough electricity to power about four thousand homes.

Credit Doug Nadvornick/SPR
Solar panels cover about 200 acres on a hillside above Lind, Washington.

Of all the hillsides in eastern Washington, why this one for a solar project? It’s the sunniest place in Avista’s coverage area, says John Knight from Strata Solar, which developed the array.

“There’s satellite data that NASA provides that outlines the solar irradiance across the country. Based upon that satellite data, we were able to figure out what the resource is in Washington and this is the best spot for Avista," Knight said.

The land is owned by the Nielson family, which signed a long-term lease with Strata.

Avista says one of the reasons it could afford to develop this project is a new renewable energy tax incentive approved this year by the Washington legislature. That lowers the cost for the 61 commercial and institutional customers that have already signed on to buy the electricity created here. The customers include the Mead School District and the city of Pullman. Joy Fryer, Avista’s product manager for renewables, says, without that incentive, solar power wouldn’t have been as attractive.

“It’s coming down in price, but right now, in our market, there’s still a bit of a premium which the majority of our customers aren’t interested in paying at this time. So the incentive was critical to get the subscription that we did in such short order,” she said.

The Lind project is Washington’s latest foray into solar. It’s now the state’s largest array. Soon it will be joined by a similar-sized project in Kittitas County. Last week, Governor Jay Inslee signed off on the project there, despite some controversy there about whether farmland should be converted to electricity production.

In Lind, local officials and U.S. Representative Dan Newhouse were all smiles about what this means for the town’s future.

“Clean energy sources such as solar provide a new opportunity to address economic needs in underserved rural communities by diversifying our rural economy and creating new opportunities for jobs and economic growth,” Newhouse said.

He says solar is a good addition to central Washington’s extensive portfolio of renewable sources, which already includes hydropower, nuclear and wind.