Solar Power Plant to be
by Mai Hoang
ELLENSBURG -- It's helped power the world's best-known search engine company with solar energy.
Now EI Solutions will design and build what will be the Northwest's largest-wattage solar power-generating facility.
Puget Sound Energy, a Bellevue, Wash.-based utility company, chose the San Rafael, Calif., firm over 11 others to build a 500-kilowatt generator on land Puget Sound Energy owns 13 miles east of Ellensburg. The generator will produce enough power for 300 homes.
"I think for us, it's an opportunity to be part be of the ground floor of solar in the Pacific Northwest," said EI Solutions president Andrew Beebe.
EI Solutions' proposal was chosen for a variety of factors including cost, qualifications and design, project manager Brian Doughty said.
The company has designed and built large-scale solar projects for a wide array of public and private entities throughout California, including a pet care business, a county sanitary district and, most recently, a 1.6-megawatt generator atop Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
The Puget Sound Energy solar facility is the company's first project outside California, Beebe said.
"We hope that other companies, entities and utilities will follow suit and prove that California is not the only place to do large-scale solar," he said.
As part of its contract with EI Solutions, Puget Sound Energy will purchase 10 percent of the panels for the project from OutBack Power Systems of Arlington, Wash. The deal should help promote local manufacturers and generate new local businesses in the solar power industry, Doughty said.
Construction work on the $3.7 million project, which will generate 15 to 20 jobs, is scheduled to begin in June. The generator is expected to begin operating by year's end, he said.Wild Horse, a 230-megwatt wind farm, is already operating at the same site.
"There's a lot of existing infrastructure that we can piggyback to and reduce the overall cost of the project," Doughty said.
Puget Sound Energy aims to generate 10 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2013. With the addition of the solar power facility, the company would receive 5 percent of its power from renewable resources.
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