Solar project planned for Richland will offer battery storage, bring in hundreds of trainees

RICHLAND, Wash. - A first-of-its-kind solar facility in Washington will soon break ground in Richland.

On Monday, Benton County approved a conditional use permit for the Horn Rapids Solar, Storage & Training Project. 

The future 20-acre site is located just north of Richland on land owned by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. It will be leased by the Regional Education & Training Center, a non-profit organization. The site will provide 4 megawatts of electricity - enough energy to power 600 Richland homes.

In 2017, the state Department of Commerce granted up to $3 million in matching funds to develop the estimated $6.5 million project. The City of Richland agreed to move forward with the project in 2018.

Along with providing solar power, the 1-megawatt battery storage system will help account for cloudy days.

"Of course renewables by themselves are very variable," said Greg Cullen, director for Energy Northwest's Generation/Technology Development and Energy Services & Development. "We also need storage to pair with solar to offer more flexibility and a more reliable energy source." 

The facility will also be used to train workers from around the country in operations, maintenance, plant construction and safety and hazard prevention. 

Additionally, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the University of Washington's Clean Energy Institute will analyze data from the project to improve battery designs and develop other solar-related research. 

In May, Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill mandating Washington's electricity supply to be 100 percent clean energy by 2045.

"With the recent state legislation we clearly see that renewable generation is going to be an important part of the energy future for Washington," said Cullen. 

Construction on the solar project is expected to begin in the Fall and be completed by June 2020.

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