LIND, Wash. — When Strata Solar decided to build a solar farm in Washington, they looked for one of the sunniest spots in the state.
They found it near Lind, a small town in eastern Washington.
The company and Avista Utilities broke ground on the 204-acre Adams County Neilson Road Solar Farm May 24. The project is touted as the largest solar plant in the state.
The site includes more than 81,000 solar panels on roughly 170 acres producing enough energy to power more than 4,000 average homes.
The solar farm is on BJ Heider’s ground under a lease for the life of the project, said John Knight, chief development officer for Strata Solar Development.
The rent revenue exceeds what the landowner received from the USDA Conservation Reserve Program, Knight said. He and Heider declined to give the rental amount.
“It’s a piece of ground I never wanted to farm again anyway,” Heider told the Capital Press. “It’s a big shallow slope, which I think it helps the solar panels — they’re pointing towards the sun. It was a no-brainer.”
The solar farm is slated to be operational until 2046. Once it is no longer operational, Strata will decommission the facility and return the land to its original condition, Knight said.
Strata Solar owns and operates the power plant, and Avista buys the electricity, Knight said.
A crew of roughly 100 local workers will complete the project by December.
About 1.5 jobs will be dedicated to operational maintenance at the plant, said Garrett Lehman, director of development.
Energy from the farm will serve commercial customers who seek a cost-competitive solar kilowatt-hour, said Marc Schaffner, manager of Avista’s Solar Select program.
Adams County Commissioner John Marshall said during the ceremony he asked how or why an East Coast company came to Washington for a solar project.
“We feel everybody in the rest of the country thinks we’re like Seattle and it rains all the time,” Marshall said.
A Strata engineer told him NASA says Lind is the sunniest place in Washington.
“Lind is a railroad town, a farming community and now the leader in renewable energy in Washington state,” Marshall said.
“We’re still a farming community that celebrates the bounty of wheat harvest every year,” said Paula Bell, mayor of the town of Lind, said during the ceremony. “Not only will you see our farmers harvesting their bountiful wheat crops, you’ll also see us harvesting our bountiful sunshine.”
The project will provide a 1.25 percent increase in tax revenue and is the largest construction project in Adams County in the last 20 years, Knight said.
“It’s my worst piece of ground on my farm, and it’s going to end up being my best piece of ground,” Heider said.