Horn Rapids Solar, Storage and Training conceptual rendering. (City of Richland)

Horn Rapids Solar, Storage and Training conceptual rendering. (City of Richland)

Triple-threat solar farm already powering up in Tri-Cities

Utilities by law must use an electricity supply free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

By Annette Cary / Tri-City Herald

More than 11,000 new solar panels near Richland have powered up and will be providing enough electricity for about 600 nearby homes.

It’s just one of the triple purposes of the Horn Rapids Solar, Storage and Training Project on Horn Rapids Road north of Richland.

In addition to 11,400 solar panels, the project’s battery energy storage can supply electricity when it is needed to about 150 homes for four hours.

Energy Northwest expects the project to draw national attention as utilities watch to see how a megawatt-scale project integrates with battery storage for renewable energy sources, it said when its board approved the project in 2018.

It is expected to be the first commercial-scale development in Washington state to integrate both solar and battery storage into the state’s mix of hydro, nuclear and wind generation.

Tucci Energy Services, a Seattle-based company, owns and operates the solar panels, and Energy Northwest owns and operates the battery storage system.

“It’s always been Energy Northwest’s vision and purpose to provide clean-energy solutions, and this is a great example of partnering to meet the needs of the Northwest customers,” said Greg Cullen, Energy Northwest’s energy services and development general manager.

Washington state’s Clean Energy Transformation Act requires utilities to use an electricity supply free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045.

Energy Northwest operates other energy projects, including the Columbia Generating Station, the Pacific Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power facility. It also has hydro and wind projects and a smaller solar project.

Solar technician training

The 20-acre project also houses a training program for solar and battery storage technicians that will be run by Potelco, Inc., an electric utility contracting firm based in Sumner, Wash.

Hundreds of workers from throughout the country are expected to train on solar and battery technology at the project annually.

Training dollars brought into the Tri-Cities are estimated at about $3 million a year, Energy Northwest said when its board approved the project in fall 2018.

The city of Richland is purchasing the solar and battery storage energy for its customers.

Power will be directed to Richland’s distribution system, while excess electricity from the solar panels will be stored by the battery system for later use.

Clint Whitney, energy services director for the city see the project as an economic boost and also will bring the city closer to meeting the state’s renewable and carbon-free energy targets.

When paired together, solar and battery storage create a more reliable and flexible source of energy. The large-scale battery is intended to meet peak energy demand in a cost effective manner, according to Energy Northwest.

PNNL project

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a Department of Energy laboratory in Richland, will monitor and analyze data from the project to evaluate the financial benefits of the battery energy storage.

It will use information from the project to improve battery designs and tools to incorporate intermittent solar and wind production into the grid reliability and economically.

Steven Ashby, PNNL director, said it is gratifying to use the lab’s national expertise in energy storage on a hometown project.

The project was paid for in part by a $3 million grant from Washington state’s Clean Energy Fund.

“This project demonstrates that there doesn’t have to be a trade off between the economy and the environment,” said Washington state Commerce Director Lisa Brown, when construction began in February.

The project will contribute to the transformation to a clean energy economy, while providing skilled, family-wage jobs, she said.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 77, owns and leases the land and has worked with Energy Northwest and Potelco since 2015 to develop the project.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned Tuesday, Nov. 10, to mark the start of the project, but attendance is limited because of the COVID pandemic.

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