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The Crook County Solar 1 project has set a good example
March 04, 2013
After a long wait, it appears Crook County will finally get its first renewable energy project.
Crook County Solar 1 has recently gained approval from the Crook County Planning Commission to build a solar farm on 12 acres of farmland in north Powell Butte. The solar farm was initially approved in late January, after its approval was held up in the appeals process.
Issues regarding access to the site, possible disruptions to farming in the area, and the potential impact on air travel all seem to have been properly addressed, as have all environmental concerns, and the project appears to be poised to move quickly ahead.
We feel that the solar project demonstrates a fine example of private industry, government, and concerned citizens working together. It’s an example we would like to see other renewable energy projects follow.
In the last three years, Crook County has seen proposals for a wind farm, a hydroelectric project, and biomass power plant begin the permitting process. Unfortunately, they have all faced problems from financing to government regulations that have stalled them.
The project leaders and government agencies with each of those projects should take a page from the Crook County Solar 1 script. Of course, navigating federal regulations creates challenges, and funding needs differ from project to project, but it seems that something always holds them back.
As examples, wind farm project leaders faced little to no funding concerns, but got buried in environmental regulations. The HM3 biomass project seems to have cleared its regulatory hurdles, but has struggled to secure start-up money.
This should not happen. The Oregon Renewable Portfolio Standard, or Senate Bill 838, which was passed in 2007, sets requirements for electrical utilities to deliver specified amounts of power from renewable energy.
According to the bill, PGE, PacifiCorp, and Eugene Water and Electric Board are required to produce 25 percent of their energy through renewable energy sources by 2025. Other utilities in the state will have to produce five or 10 percent of their energy through renewable sources.
If the State hands down such a mandate, we feel they should find ways to grease the wheels for projects like the local wind farm or HM3 plant. They need to find a way to help renewable energy projects secure funding and navigate environmental regulations more quickly.
Crook County Solar 1 seems to have succeeded where other local projects have failed. All that stands between its approval and construction is some additional paperwork. We applaud the Planning Commission, Crook County Solar 1, and concerned citizens for working together to quickly move the project through the process.
Now, state and federal agencies and other renewable energy project leaders need to follow this example as best as they can. That way, the solar farm will not be the last renewable project in Crook County.