French company chooses Benton County to build state’s largest solar project

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A French company has begun site studies in Benton County to build the state’s largest solar project.

Neoen, a French independent renewable energy project developer, plans to build a 20-megawatt solar project in Benton County on land adjacent to the Hanford site. Project completion is scheduled for 2019.

The company began site studies on June 10 for what would be the largest utility scale photovoltaic power plant in Washington state. This geotechnical work will help determine the most viable site for the project.

“Neoen is very proud to be investing in a utility-scale solar project in Washington state. The project will be a competitive source of renewable energy, especially given the downward trend in the cost of solar technology. It is also the first step in Neoen’s long-term strategy in the U.S.,” said Romain Desrousseaux, Neoen deputy CEO, in a news release.

The Tri-City Development Council has been working with Neoen since 2014.

“This is exactly the type of project we envisioned when we began our effort to transfer Department of Energy land to the community for economic development,” said Carl Adrian, president and CEO of TRIDEC. “The project further solidifies the Tri-Cities’ position as the energy hub for Washington state and confirms that the decision to transfer the land from DOE was correct.”

The Tri-Cities is well-suited for solar energy because it has the available land, the infrastructure to support power projects and abundant sunshine, TRIDEC said.
TRIDEC recently transferred the property to Energy Northwest, which is supporting the project’s development.

The Department of Energy’s Richland Operations Office transferred 1,641 acres of the Hanford site to TRIDEC and the Tri-Cities community for economic development in 2015.

By the end of first quarter 2016, 1,341 acres had been further transferred at no cost – other than title transfer costs – to the city of Richland and Port of Benton for future economic development with a focus on growing the energy sector of the Tri-City economy.

TRIDEC transferred the remaining 300 acres to Energy Northwest with the understanding that about 100 of those acres would be made available for a solar energy project. This project had been in negotiation for nearly two years.

Neoen hired Energy Northwest, a generator of more than 1,300 megawatts of carbon-free electricity for the region, to provide consulting and marketing support.

Neoen is actively seeking potential customers for the solar electricity.

Founded in 2008, Neoen is an independent supplier of electricity from renewable energy (solar, wind and biomass) and is set to be the first French supplier to reach 1,000 megawatts of installed power. Neoen operates in France, Australia, El Salvador, Mexico, Zambia, Mozambique, Jordan, Jamaica, Portugal and Ireland.

Neoen aims to supply power in excess of 3,000 megawatts by 2020, and is opening an office in Washington state to address the U.S. market.