Speakers at a hearing Monday supported a solar energy project east of Moxee, saying it would bring jobs to the area, though others raised concerns about the effect on agriculture.
The state Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council’s public comment period for the Goose Prairie solar project began Sept. 13 and closed at 7 p.m. Monday after the hearing concluded.
OneEnergy’s plans call for building an 80-megawatt solar energy collection system with battery storage on 625 acres about 8 miles east of Moxee. The site is near State Route 24, Den Beste Road and Desmarais Road. The system will deliver power through the Bonneville Power Administration’s lines at the site.
The council decided in June that the project proposed by OneEnergy Renewables would not have a significant negative impact on the environment. The company will take steps outlined by EFSEC and Yakima County to reduce impacts on water, natural habitat and more, site specialist Kyle Overton said.
The site is within an agricultural zoning district in Yakima County, where power generating facilities are subject to a conditional-use permit. The council opened a comment period and conducted the hearing to determine whether any additional conditions should be required.
EFSEC is drafting a site certification agreement, Overton said. Its recommendation will be presented to the governor for approval by Oct. 31.
Blake Bjornson, associate director with 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 should be 100% clean by 2030.
All five speakers at Monday’s EFSEC hearing said they supported the Goose Prairie project because of the jobs it would create. Bjornson said the project would create as many as 300 jobs during its construction.
Richard Stelter of Yakima, a member of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said the union supports the project.
“The members (of LiUNA) value good energy jobs because they offer family-supporting careers and strengthen our country,” Stelter said.
Four other speakers from the union chapter based in Richland supported the project. Aubrey Newton, an employee with the regional office, said union members are ready to work at Goose Prairie and similar projects.
The council also received comments in writing. Yakima County Farm Bureau President Mark Herke opposed the solar project, citing the loss of land for agriculture and effects on water in a written comment submitted to the council.
“This proposed project removed lands from agricultural production,” Herke said.
The construction would affect water runoff, impacting neighbors with agricultural land, Herke said.
Herke also said the area is prone to wildfires, and burning solar panels could cause a health hazard.
Dale Hille of Yakima County Fire District 4 said the solar project would affect the fire department’s operations. Hille said the department wants to be involved in the planning process to develop a response plan in case of emergency.
“In addition, vegetation management in and surrounding the facility needs to be addressed to keep the risk of wildfire impact to a minimum,” Hille said in the written comment.
EFSEC will consider the comments while drafting the site certification and final recommendation, Overton said during the hearing.