Gov. Jay Inslee has given the final approval needed to begin construction on a controversial solar project in Kittitas County.
The Columbia Solar Project will generate 25 megawatts of power by deploying 200 acres of solar panels at five leased locations near Ellensburg.
Developers sidestepped Kittitas County officials, who had a moratorium on new solar projects as they worked on new rules, and instead asked the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council for approval. The council was created during the 1970s to function as a one-stop regulator for new energy facilities. Membership consists of gubernatorial appointees and representatives from state agencies and local governments, with the governor ultimately required to sign off on council decisions.
Part of the discussion in Kittitas County was focused on use of agricultural land for solar.
The Columbia Solar Project is the first to be approved under 2004 rules granting the council the ability to perform an expedited review in cases when it’s apparent to regulators that a proposed project has met the legal standards needed.