The Teanaway Solar Reserve (TSR) will be both an engine for economic growth and new jobs and a good neighbor, representatives of Teanaway Solar Reserve LLC, the company that plans to build the project, told about 60 people during a question-and-answer session at Walter Strom Middle School Thursday night.
Representatives said the Teanaway Solar Reserve will inject $97.5 million dollars into Kittitas County in the purchase of local goods and services during the three-year construction period according to an economic impact study released this week.
The total development cost is expected to run between $300 million and $350 million and will translate into annual sales tax revenues of $2.6 million a year during construction. Once the project is operational, it is expected to generate between $1.5 and $1.6 million every year in property tax revenues.
The project is expected to produce 225 jobs during the construction phase and 35 permanent jobs once it is operational.
The 75-megawatt reserve, planned for a site northeast of Cle Elum, is the largest photovoltaic solar project ever proposed for the Northwest and, if built on schedule, would be one of the largest operating in the world.
Those figures aside, community members had questions about issues ranging from visibility concerns and potential impact on wildlife to road use, water run-off concerns, why the company chose the Teanaway location in the first place and why the company is leasing the land for 20 years rather than buying it.
“It’s just a cash thing,” Howard Trott, managing partner for Teanaway Solar Reserve, LLC, said in response to the question about leasing instead of purchasing. He told the audience choosing a site came down to a number of factors. Among them: finding a site with adequate solar exposure and an owner willing to lease the land and the fact the location has power lines on it.
Water run-off has been an issue, one person said, asking how TSR planned to manage that. The company will maintain vegetation wherever it can and keep surfaces pervious to prevent problems with run-off, representatives said. One audience member questioned how the company would handle water needed to keep the surface of the panels clean. Trott said that the photovoltaic panels being used were not mirrored and were not expected to need regular cleaning with water. What water will be needed would be brought in with trucks, he said.
In terms of elk and other animal migration, TSR will work to mitigate impacts, he said. The reserve will not be fenced, except for about an acre that will house a substation.
“We have the good instinct that trying to keep deer and elk out of anything is usually a thankless job,” Trott said. Local residents who have historically enjoyed access to the area, whether for horseback riding or other recreation, won’t be prevented from doing so, he said. The reserve will have security on-site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. TSR also is working to minimize visual impact, he told the audience.
Others wanted to know whether the company’s plan to have a manufacturing plant located in Cle Elum to assemble the 400,000 photovoltaic panels the project will require means the company would stay here once the project is complete.
“We do want to bring the jobs here. We want to leave the jobs here,” Trott told the audience. But he said the company that assembles the panels will be the party that determines how many jobs the project will create.
“What happens if you go broke?” one audience member asked.
Even if TSR decided not to extend its lease beyond 20 years, the company can’t just walk away from the site, representatives said.
There won’t be a situation where TSR just “leaves a graveyard up there,” said Nichole Seidell, project manager with CH2M Hill, an engineering and consulting firm working on the project. A decommissioning plan is required as part of the development agreement for the project, she said.
State Rep. Bill Hinkle, standing at the rear of the room, told the audience “normally there is a bond” to guarantee the site can’t just be abandoned.
One question Trott didn’t answer was exactly who the investors are behind the project. Most are from the West Coast, he said, calling them “quiet folks investing with the right ideas. These people are very private people who don’t need notoriety for doing these things” and who are backing the project “for the right reasons,” he said.
He said backers have no plans to just build the project and then sell it.
“This is a long-term thing, and we don’t intend to sell it,” he said.
After the meeting, Phil Hess, a professional forester who lives in the Teanaway area, approached Trott.
“I think a lot of people may have come thinking this is a bad idea and expecting to shoot it down,” he said. “I think they’re walking away thinking this is a good idea. It’s a win-win for the county. If you pull off the manufacturing plant, that’s a huge win for Cle Elum.
“What you’re doing is building a foundation of community support. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen. The great thing is,” he told Trott, “you’re building it right from the start.”
By MARY SWIFT, Daily Record – http://www.kvnews.com/articles/2009/10/23/news/doc4ae1fd78bf5c1997723981.txt