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article imageStrata Solar to build largest solar farm in Washington state

By Karen Graham     Apr 9, 2018 in Technology
North Carolina-based Strata Solar soon will begin installing the largest solar farm in the state of Washington. The company plans to begin installing 81,000 solar panels next month near Lind, about 75 miles west of Spokane.
The ground-breaking ceremony is set for May 24, 2018. Strata Solar will build and own the 170-acre project that is part of a trio of large projects coming to the state that are expected to triple their capacity - on their own - in less than three years, according to PV Magazine.
With 81,000 solar PV panels, the farm will be a 28 MW-DC single axis tracker plant. Currently, the largest solar facility in the state is a 500 kW plant commissioned in 2009. The state has a combined 111MW of solar, in total.
The utility, Avista Corporation will buy the electricity and sell it to 40 to 80 large commercial and industrial customers. The utility has already been in conversations with large customers about new renewable energy choices, and the preference has been for solar, according to Marc Schaffner, the utility’s project manager for the solar farm.
Lind  Washington is designated by the Red pointer.
Lind, Washington is designated by the Red pointer.
U.S. Climate Data
Avista has a renewable energy program called Solar Select. The program allows commercial and industrial customers to acquire solar electricity and the associated Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) with no additional costs to the businesses.
Avista's program was created because of demand from its customers after Washington state utilities were put on alert when Microsoft announced plans to buy its own electricity in the open market to power its operations in Puget Sound last year. To do so, Microsoft had to pay Puget Sound Electricity (PSE) a $24 million “transition fee."
Solar power in the Northwest
The Lind site was chosen because of its sunny location and its proximity to Avista's transmission and distribution systems. In the Northwest, solar power represents less than 1.0 percent of the region's electrical generating capacity. However, Joni Bosh, senior policy associate for the NW Energy Coalition in Portland, said this will soon change.
Bosh cites the drop in the costs of solar panels and installation in recent years, making the cost of solar electricity more competitive with traditional types of generation. She also points out the increase in commitments made by corporations, local governments, and even universities to embrace renewable energy to meet their sustainability goals.
"That’s pushing investment in solar, wind and geothermal projects," Bosh said.
The state meets the market
We are already aware that large IT companies, like Google, Amazon, and Apple are heavily investing in renewables, helping to drive the renewable market, according to the Spokesman-Review.
“It’s an important and disruptive type of initiative, shaking up utilities that hadn’t planned on acquiring that much in renewables,” said Tom Karier, the Northwest Power, and Conservation Council’s Eastern Washington representative.
“These big businesses are hearing from their customers. … They’re pressured by customer demand to come up with a plan to get cleaner,” said Bosh
Last year, the Washington state legislature approved additional tax incentives to spur the development of solar, wind and other renewable energy projects throughout the state. For the Lind project, the tax incentives are worth up to 6 cents per kilowatt-hour for a period of eight years.
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