ENTERPRISE — Ryan Sheehy’s Fleet Development moved a step closer to its second Wallowa County community solar project in August when the county commissioners tacitly approved leasing property for the facility, pending a review of contracts.
Fleet Development is seeking to transform an unused corner of the county’s former asphalt plant site on Fish Hatchery Lane and Homan Lane into a solar power farm that would provide energy to local customers through Pacific Power’s grid. Sheehy said Fleet Development had been working for three years on planning a 360-kilowatt community solar project on industrial-zoned county land near Enterprise.
“We’ll spend about a million dollars building this, and the majority of the money will support county vendors and contractors, who live right here,” Sheehy said. “Once the project’s completed, based on my rough calculation, more than $24,000 per year would stay in the county from operations, maintenance, local subscriptions and lease income. That money would otherwise go out to PacifiCorp, so we are diverting some funds back into the county’s economy.”
Although it’s on the smaller end of community solar projects nationwide, it’s still significant for rural communities, Sheehy said. He noted the project would generate about 824,000 kilowatt hours per year — enough to power 100 average-sized homes each year.
Commissioner John Hillock said the project is going on property the county can’t use for anything else, so it’s “a win-win situation.”
The proposed site will occupy the south-facing slope of the hill on 2.5 acres, according to the Fleet Development plans, and reroute portions of roads on county land. The project is part of Oregon’s new Community Solar Program. Although the program was created by Oregon’s Legislature in 2016, this project is likely to be the first solar project to pass through the extensive certification requirements of the program.
Sheehy said he anticipated leasing the property from the county for about $2,500 per year and generating an additional $2,500 to the county annually as a “fees in lieu of taxes” payment common for solar projects in the state. The project should have a lifespan of more than 25 years, Sheehy said, with a 20-year power purchase agreement with Pacific Power that could last longer. But if the county decides it doesn’t want to continue the project at that time, the equipment can be decommissioned and removed.