Speakers at a hearing on Monday supported a solar power project east of Moxee, saying it would create jobs in the area, although others expressed concerns about the effect on the ‘Agriculture.
OneEnergy’s plans call for building an 80-megawatt solar energy harvesting system with battery storage on 625 acres about 8 miles east of Moxee. The site is located near State Route 24, Den Beste Road, and Desmarais Road. The system will supply electricity through the lines of the Bonneville Power Administration to the site.
The board decided in June that the project proposed by OneEnergy Renewables would not have a significant negative impact on the environment. The company will take measures outlined by EFSEC and Yakima County to reduce impacts to water, natural habitat and more, site specialist Kyle Overton said.
The site is in an agricultural zoning district of Yakima County, where power generation facilities are subject to a conditional use permit. The board opened a comment period and conducted the hearing to determine whether additional conditions should be required.
EFSEC is in the process of drafting a site certification agreement, Overton said. Its recommendation will be presented to the governor for approval by October 31.
Blake Bjornson, associate director of OneEnergy, said the Goose Prairie project will help meet statewide clean energy goals. An energy strategy released by the Washington State Department of Commerce this year recommended that electricity in Washington be 100% clean by 2030.
All five interveners at Monday’s EFSEC hearing said they supported the Goose Prairie project because of the jobs it would create. Bjornson said the project will create up to 300 jobs during construction.
Richard Stelter of Yakima, a member of the International Union of Workers of North America, said the union supported the project.
“Members (of LiUNA) value good energy jobs because they provide family careers and strengthen our country,” Stelter said.
Four other speakers from the Richland-based union section supported the project. Aubrey Newton, an employee of the regional office, said union members are ready to work on Goose Prairie and similar projects.
The board also received written comments. Yakima County Agricultural Bureau chairman Mark Herke opposed the solar project, citing the loss of land for agriculture and the effects on water in a written comment submitted to the council.
“This proposed project has removed land from agricultural production,” Herke said.
The construction would affect water runoff, affecting neighbors with farmland, Herke said.
Herke also said the area is prone to forest fires and burning solar panels could pose a health risk.
Dale Hille, of Yakima County Fire District 4, said the solar project will affect the operations of the fire department. Hille said the ministry wanted to be involved in the planning process to develop an emergency response plan.
“In addition, the management of vegetation in and around the facility must be considered to minimize the risk of forest fire impact,” Hille said in the written comment.
EFSEC will consider comments when drafting the site’s certification and final recommendation, Overton said during the hearing.