The first utility-scale solar arrays in Jefferson County are operational, and the developer has estimated the combined value of the property at $37 million.
“That’s a good chunk of change for our tax rolls,” said Janet Brown, Jefferson County manager at Economic Development for Central Oregon. “We were getting $280 a year off of each property,” she said. “It’s rangeland. There’s no irrigation, poor soil.” Jefferson County approved five-year tax abatements for the two solar projects, Adams Solar Center and Elbe Solar Center, Brown said.
GCL New Energy, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based GCL Group, completed two 10-megawatt solar arrays outside Madras earlier this summer and is already selling power to PacifiCorp, company officials said. GCL developed two more 10-megawatt sites in Oregon, one outside Bly and one just east of Bend, and those will be completed later this summer and in the fall, construction manager Lyle Thompson said.
The four-project portfolio has the capacity to provide electricity for 6,000 homes, according to Swinerton Renewable Energy, a California company under contract with GCL to oversee operations and maintenance of the four Oregon solar sites.
GCL executives will be in Madras on Monday for a ribbon-cutting at the Adams Solar Center site. The company expects to spend about $98 million on the four sites and would like to install more solar in Oregon, said Yan Gong, director of engineering, procurement and construction for GCL New Energy.
“It’s a very good location to build solar projects,” Gong said. Local government and landowners are helpful, he said.
And the Adams installation is performing above capacity because of the site’s combination of sunny weather and mild temperatures, he said.
GCL is the third solar developer to be involved in the multisite project. It began in Jefferson County in 2014 with HelioSage Energy, Brown said. Virginia-based Coronal Group LLC acquired HelioSage in 2015, according to a company press release. Then in early 2017, Coronal sold the project to GCL, a Coronal spokeswoman said.
Pacific Power had announced in 2016 that it acquired the renewable energy credits from the four projects and expected them to be completed by the end of that year, according to The Bulletin’s archive. (The utility this week said it will buy enough solar power to run Facebook’s Prineville data center, sparking construction of two arrays totaling 100 megawatts outside Prineville.)
Pacific Power and Oregon’s other large electric utilities must have renewable sources for 50 percent of the electricity used in the state by 2040, under Oregon’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.
The solar projects employed 180 people during construction, Gong said, but the ongoing operation requires only a few people at each site.
Unlike most economic development projects, solar developers do not have to show long-term employment increases to qualify for tax subsidies, Brown said. GCL will be eligible to claim the tax abatements next year, she said.
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