Home On The (Solar) Range: Energy Developers Clamor For Washington’s Grazing Land
Renewable energy developers are showing interest in converting public grazing lands in sunny central Washington into large solar farms.
The state Department of Natural Resources says around 15 companies have expressed interest in long-term leases of public rangeland properties, primarily in Klickitat County but also in Yakima, Grant, Douglas and Kittitas counties.
The proposals involve utility-scale solar arrays from 40 acres in size on the low end to potentially as large as 2,400 acres. A lot of the public lands of interest are already leased for cattle grazing.
“We have the right to cancel a lease for a higher or better use,” DNR Central Region Leasing Manager Chad Unland said in an interview.
He said the grazing leases typically net the state less than $2 per acre per year.
“That’s not super profitable, as you can see,” observed Kathryn Mink, the assistant regional manager for agriculture at DNR’s office in Ellensburg.
The state agency estimates it could earn $600-$1,000 per acre per year from solar.
“It’s an amazing difference, which is why we feel it’s worth doing and the trust mandate calls for it,” Mink said.
DNR manages the grazing lands under a mandate to maximize revenue for school construction and a few other public trust funds.
Mink said her office is aiming to put the first couple parcels suitable for commercial solar energy out to bid later this year. The identified properties are flat and near existing electric transmission lines and substations.
Unland said the host counties would get a slice of the pie through leasehold tax.
If approved, a utility-scale solar farm would be the largest in renewable friendly Klickitat County and in Washington. But some residents say its potential location doesn’t take one important thing into account: environmental justice. Continue Reading Even In The Bright Of Day, Some Klickitat County Residents Have A Solar Energy ‘Nightmare’
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Many states – including Oregon and Washington – have set renewable energy goals. But, there’s a problem. The wind isn’t always blowing, and the sun isn’t always shining. That’s why wind and solar power are variable, or intermittent. Enter pumped hydro. It’s not a new technology, but it is gaining more interest regionally. Continue Reading Northwest Clean-Energy Advocates Eye Pumped Hydro To Fill Gaps, With Tribes Noting Concerns