New solar project set for Bickleton


March 13, 2019

Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz last Wednesday announced the first lease of state trust lands for solar power. The Washington State Department of Natural Resources is entering into an agreement with Avangrid Renewables to lease 480 acres of state trust lands in Klickitat County (near Bickleton) as part of a 150-megawatt solar power project.

The project will not only generate clean energy, but it will also generate more than $120,000 per year in new revenue for schools across the state.

"Solar power is a win-win-win for the people of Washington," said 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 clean-energy wind program. Each year, wind turbines on state trust land generate 200 megawatts of power and raise $1.2 million for school construction and public services.

"Our goal is to produce 500 megawatts 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-based Avangrid is for 40 years. The company anticipates it 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," said 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 land near Bickleton is currently being used as grazing land for cattle. Grazing payments on this land generate $2 per acre yearly. Avangrid will be leasing the land for $300 an acre. Revenue from the use of this land goes to the Common School Trust, used for school construction across Washington 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," said Commissioner Franz. "Solar power helps us take full advantage of the economic and ecological potential of our public lands."

DNR manages nearly 6 million acres of public forest, rangeland, tidelands, and commercial properties across Washington.

The Klickitat County solar project is part of Franz's Rural Communities Partnership Initiative (RCPI), an ongoing effort to spur investment and job creation using natural resources throughout Washington. Past RCPI projects include the retrofitting and reopening of a lumber mill in Raymond, the construction of a derelict boat recycling facility in Ilwaco, and a partnership with the Kalama School District to help students manage a 32-acre forest adjacent to the district's Middle-High School.


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