World's largest solar plant may be built in Cle Elum
The sunny, Central Washington town of Cle Elum could be the site of the world's largest solar power plant, if Washington company Teanaway Solar Reserve makes good on plans announced today. The sunny, Central Washington town of Cle Elum could be the site of the world's largest solar photovoltaic power plant, if a Washington company makes good on plans announced today.
Teanaway Solar Reserve hopes to gain approval from Kittitas County to build a 75 megawatt plant, made up of 400,000 photovoltaic panels. The energy produced would be enough for 45,000 homes, said Howard Trott, the Kirkland man who heads the operation. Trott said he expects the plant to be operational by 2011.
"If we can do this in the Pacific Northwest, we are hopeful this will launch other large-scale solar projects around the U.S.," said Trott, who for 22 years helped manage investments for Seattle telecom billionaire Craig McCaw. Trott said McCaw is not putting up any money for the plant, which will cost "north of $100 million."
Trott would not reveal where the funds are coming from. "As a privately held company, we are able to move quickly and have the resources to get this done," he said. Teanaway Solar Reserve has leased 400 acres of private timberland about 4 miles from Cle Elum, near the scenic Teanaway Valley. The site has been heavily logged in the past, but is surrounded by Ponderosa pine forest that will screen the array from view, Trott said.
Because the area is already zoned for natural resources use, the only permits the company will need will be from Kittitas County, said Matt Steuerwalt, a company spokesman. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell participated in the announcement, praising the plans. She pointed out the value of federal tax credits for solar projects, which she helped to extend. "This project will move Washington into the second largest solar producer by megawatt, in the United States — behind California," Cantwell said.
The company also plans to lure a solar-panel manufacturer to Cle Elum, to produce the panels locally. Trott said the project would create "hundreds" of jobs in the area.
9 July 2009 By Sandi Doughton,
Seattle Times science reporter