Washington State Moves Forward With 5 MW Solar-Plus-Storage Facility

By Betsy Lillian for Solar Industry

Washington electricity provider Energy Northwest (EN) has committed to building an energy storage system as part of a combined 5 MW solar-plus-storage facility in Richland, Wash.

In partnership with Potelco, based in Sumner, Wash., the agency plans to break ground on the Horn Rapids Solar, Storage & Training Project during fall 2019, with commercial operations of the facility expected in 2020.

“The project will help the City of Richland meet upcoming state requirements for renewable generation,” says Clint Gerkensmeyer, EN’s project manager for energy services and development. “It’ll demonstrate that the combination of renewable electricity generation and storage technology is an economically viable option for state utilities.”

In addition to providing electricity generation and storage, the facility will serve as a training ground for solar and battery storage technicians. Hundreds of workers from throughout the country are expected to train there each year, bringing the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland) at least $3 million in annual economic benefit, says EN.

The $6.5 million storage project received a $3 million assist in 2017 from the state’s Clean Energy Fund, managed by the Department of Commerce. The latest decision by the EN board of directors to move forward with the project marks the final step for the agency’s full participation.

“This will be the first development to integrate both solar and battery storage into our state’s clean mix of hydro, nuclear and wind generation,” says Terry Brewer, president of EN’s board of directors and commissioner for the Grant County Public Utility District.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 77, which owns the development land, and the Regional Education & Training Center, which leases it, have worked with EN and Potelco since 2015 to help take the project from concept to development. In addition, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) provided business and technology consultation throughout the process.

“This is why the state legislature created us,” comments Brent Ridge, vice president for EN corporate services and chief financial officer, “to build partnerships that directly benefit utility customers.”

Potelco will finance and construct the 4 MW, 20-acre solar PV array, which will provide enough energy to power 600 homes. EN will build, own and operate the 1 MW battery storage system, which will be capable of powering 150 homes for four hours.

In addition to providing energy directly to Richland’s power distribution system, excess electricity from the solar panels will be stored by the battery system for later use.

“The battery will smooth the solar output, shift off-peak solar generation to times when the energy is needed and help reduce peak energy demand,” says Gerkensmeyer.

Richland’s Regional Education and Training Center, a nonprofit organization focused on training new and incumbent workers, will create the solar and battery training curriculum. Training will cover plant construction, operations, maintenance, and safety and hazard prevention. The project also offers a research opportunity for local energy scientists. Working together, PNNL and the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute will monitor and analyze data from the project.

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