By Lisa McCrummen, Center for Sustainable Infrastructure
What if there was a way that the Washington State could convert low-rent public grazing lands in sunny central Washington into large high-rent solar farms to bring in much needed revenue while supporting rural job creation.
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has done just that with the first lease of 480 acres of state trust lands for solar power in Klickitat County.
This new program will create a much better return for tax payers; the state will now annually receive $300 an acre through Avangrid Renewables versus $2 for grazing payments. This will generate more than $120,000 per year in new revenue (which supports a state fund for schools) while reducing pollution, building energy independence in Washington communities and creating family-wage jobs in areas that need them the most.
Washington State has looked at ways that it could realize more solar leasing opportunities to meet new market demands while also increasing benefits for Washingtonians. DNR’s new goal is to embrace clean energy leasing and development and to produce 500 megawatts of solar power on public lands by 2025. It appears there’s a bright future: solar companies have expressed interest in long-term leases of public rangeland properties in Klickitat County, Yakima, Grant, Douglas and Kittitas counties, according to Northwest News Network.
This solar program will build upon DNR’s expansive clean-energy wind program. Each year, according to DNR, wind turbines on state trust land generate 200 megawatts of power and raise $1.2 million for school construction and public services.
The Klickitat County solar project is part of Commissioner Franz’s Rural Communities Partnership Initiative (RCPI), an ongoing effort to spur investment and job creation using natural resources throughout Washington RCPI is helping communities throughout Washington. For example . CSI has been instrumental in helping move forward one RCPI project in Raymond, WA. As currently envisioned, it will be home to a retrofitted New Pacific Hardwood Mill that will produce new sustainably-harvested products and build an infrastructure innovative energy district. Pragmatic projects like this help realize Commissioner Franz’s vision for revitalizing rural economies to benefit both the economy and environment; and CSI recognizes that this approach is making an incredible difference across the State.
Commissioner Franz and RCPI was also one of the delegates on the 2017 Scandinavia/US sustainability knowledge exchange trips in collaboration with CSI and i-SUSTAIN, supported with funds from Scan/Design Foundation.