The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is entering into an agreement with Avangrid Renewables to lease 480 acres of state trust lands in Klickitat County as part of a 150 MW solar power project.
The project will generate not only clean energy but also more than $120,000 per year in new revenue for schools across the state, according to Hilary Franz, Washington’s commissioner of public lands, who says the investment represents Washington’s first lease of state trust lands for solar power.
“Solar power is a win-win-win for the people of Washington,” says Franz, the elected official who oversees DNR. “It generates significant revenue for our schools while creating jobs and providing clean, affordable energy to our homes and businesses.”
DNR already has an expansive wind program. Each year, wind turbines on state trust lands generate 200 MW of power and raise $1.2 million for school construction and public services.
“Our goal is to produce 500 MW of solar power on public lands by 2025,” Franz says. “The clean energy we generate reduces pollution and builds energy independence in our communities. And it also creates family-wage jobs in parts of our state that need them the most.”
DNR’s lease with Portland, Ore.-based Avangrid Renewables is for 40 years. The company anticipates the solar project will begin operations in late 2020.
“Executing the first solar power lease on state lands for a project like this is an exciting development for us as we work to expand solar energy in the Northwest,” says Avangrid Renewables’ vice president for business development, Jesse Gronner. “We still have a lot of work to do to push this project forward, but we think it’s a great site for a solar project, and we thank Commissioner Franz and her staff for working with us.”
The site, located near Bickleton in southern Washington, is currently being used as grazing land for cattle. Grazing payments on this land generate $2/acre yearly, and Avangrid will be leasing the land for $300/acre. Revenue from the use of this land goes to the Common School Trust, used for school construction across the state.
“State-managed lands have generated more than $1.5 billion for public services over the past two decades, but we are always looking for ways to meet new market demands and increase benefits for Washingtonians,” adds Franz. “Solar power helps us take full advantage of the economic and ecological potential of our public lands.”
The Klickitat County solar project is part of Franz’s Rural Communities Partnership Initiative, an ongoing effort to spur investment and job creation using natural resources throughout Washington.