ENTERPRISE — Ryan Sheehy’s Fleet Development moved a step closer to its second Wallowa County community solar project on Wednesday, Aug. 19, when the county commissioners tacitly approved leasing property for the facility, pending a review of contracts by county counsel.
Fleet Development is seeking to transform an unused corner of the county’s former asphalt plant site on Fish Hatchery Lane and Homan Lane into a solar power “farm” that would provide energy to local customers through the Pacific Power and Light power grid.
Sheehy said that Fleet Development had been working for three years on planning a 360-kilowatt community solar project on industrial-zoned county land near Enterprise.
“This project is going to be built on property that the county can’t use for anything else. It’s just sort of wasteland, a sloping piece where we can’t park trucks or do anything else with. It’s a win-win situation,” Commissioner John Hillock said.
The project is part of Oregon’s new Community Solar Program. Although the program was created by Oregon’s Legislature in 2016, this project is likely to be the first solar project to pass through the extensive certification requirements of the program.
“The best location we’ve found for the project is the site of the county’s old asphalt plant on Homan Lane near Fish Hatchery Lane,” Sheehy said. “There are a lot of factors to consider that include, zoning, proximity to a sub station and topography.”
The proposed site will occupy the south-facing slope of the hill on 2.5 acres, according to the Fleet Development plans. It will re-route part of the roadways on county land, including construction of a safer intersection for county vehicles to use when accessing Homan Lane the remainder of the property to pick up equipment, gravel or vehicles..
“We’d like the county’s permission to move forward with this project,” Sheehy said. “We plan to subscribe this power to local businesses and multifamily housing.”
Although it’s on the smaller end of community solar projects nationwide, it’s still significant for arural communities, Sheehy said. He noted that the project would generate about 824,000 kilowatt hours per year — enough to power 100 average-sized homes each year.
“We’ll spend about a million dollars building this, and the majority of the money will support county vendors and contractors, who live right here,” Sheehy said. “Once the project’s completed, based on my rough calculation, more than $24,000 per year would stay in the county from operations, maintenance, local subscriptions and lease income. That money would otherwise go out to PacifiCorp, so we are diverting some funds back into the county’s economy.”
He anticipated leasing the property from the county for about $2,500 per year, and generating an additional $2,500 to the county annually as a “fees in lieu of taxes” payment common for solar projects in the state.
“The lease would start when we began construction, at the prorated rate of $1,200 per year during construction, which would be a very short time, and we hope maybe this fall, or if not then in the spring of 2021. Once we are operational, we propose paying $2,500 per year with a 2% per year escalator, or any other terms proposed by the county.”
“It’s an industrial area already,” Sheehy said.
The project should have a lifespan of more than 25 years, Sheehy said.
“We have a contract with Pacific Power for 20 years, where they are required to buy our power output,” he said. “The 20-year power purchase agreement is part of the requirements of the community solar program. But it could go further. The equipment we buy has a performance warranty for 25 years and we expect it will continue to generate for 30-plus.”
But if the county decides it doesn’t want to continue the project at that time, it can be decommissioned and removed.