A solar panel and battery installation went online last week at a 20-acre site north of downtown Richland, according to a statement released Monday by Energy Northwest.
The project has more than 11,400 solar panels, which can generate some 4 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 600 homes. It also has 1 megawatt of battery storage that can provide power to about 150 homes for four hours.
The project is the state’s first utility-scale solar and battery project, according to Energy Northwest, a consortium of 27 public utility districts and municipalities that operates the state’s only nuclear power plant at a site outside of Richland. This project is part of what is expected to be a surge of solar generation projects in Washington state in the years ahead as utilities move away from coal and natural gas generation. These projects gained new momentum in 2019 as the state Legislature passed a law that calls for zero greenhouse gas emissions to be produced from the state’s power sector by 2045.
Proponents of that legislation hope it will set the stage for zero-carbon electricity to play a much bigger role in transportation as gasoline-powered vehicles give way to those that plug into the electric grid.
This project, called Horn Rapids Solar, Storage & Training, provides electricity for the city of Richland. It results from a partnership that includes Energy Northwest, Tucci Energy Services, the Department of Commerce (which contributed a $3 million grant to pay for part of the costs) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
The project site also houses a training program for solar and battery technicians, which will be run by Potelco, an electric utility contracting firm based in Sumner. Roughly 12 people were trained while the project was being built, and additional training is expected to be offered in the months ahead.