MADRAS, OR -- Rural land considered unusable for agriculture is finding new purpose in the solar industry. Two new solar farm projects are in the works for the High Desert.
A 60-megawatt project is proposed for west of Madras. Nathan Rogers is with EcoPlexus, a global solar company designing the project. He tells KBND News, "Solar is a very hot topic of conversation right now in Oregon, especially in relation to land use and whether solar should be going on farm land or not going on farm land." Rogers believes the Jefferson County location is perfect for a new solar farm, "It is largely tabletop flat and the site doesn't have any water rights, so it's not a good site for farming. It also has the ability to interconnect or to hook up to the grid, on site. Also, Central Oregon has very good solar radiance, or solar resource. Where it's located on the grid, it's a good spot in terms of power quality. It can basically provide lots of grid support." It would join two 10-megawatt farms already running in Jefferson County.
EcoPlexus submitted a notice of intent for the project, and Rogers will discuss the process with Jefferson County Commissioners on Wednesday. "The way that the laws are set up in Oregon, if your project exceeds certain size thresholds, the county can't issue your permit. You have to seek what's called a site certificate from the Energy Facilities Siting Council." Rogers plans to also present a formal project preview, "This will be a great opportunity, if anyone is interested to learn more, to come and do so." He adds, "We like to develop relationships in the places that we are working and developing projects, and so I thought it would be nice to just present a little bit about the project to the board."
A second proposal is also moving forward in the High Desert. The Crook County Planning Commission recently approved a 320-acre solar farm near Prineville. Like the Madras-area project, the West Prineville Solar Farm will be built on EFU land with no irrigation or water rights. Crook County Judge Seth Crawford tells KBND News he sees solar as a positive for the community. County leaders have actively tried to recruit solar projects to the area in recent years.