Business

Site selected for Greenbank solar panels

A community solar energy project took a step forward Wednesday when the commissioners for the Port of Coupeville selected a one-acre piece of land at the Greenbank Farm for a community solar power project.

The commissioners selected a site located on pasture in front of the barns west of an unpaved farm access road.

Plans call for eventually constructing eight solar panel arrays that will produce approximately 20 kilowatts each. The initial panel, however, will be more modest: One array producing 10 kilowatts will be built. The project is being funded by a $25,000 grant from Puget Sound Energy and through a group of community investors.

Officials had identified a dozen possible locations on the sunny pasture land at the farm as suitable for the solar project. The remaining sites were rejected because they were too close to the agriculture fields. Sites near the barn were also tossed out because a new roof would have to be installed in the next seven to eight years, said John Hastings with the Community Solar Energy project during the port meeting Wednesday morning. Another site was too close to nearby conifer trees which could block out sunlight as they grow taller.

The proposed panels would be built between 7 and 14-feet off the ground, which will still give animals the opportunity to graze on the pasture surrounding the panels. In addition, the site selected already benefits from fencing on two of four sides.

Jim Patton, executive director for the Port of Coupeville, said the site will be easily accessible to farm visitors. The project will include a kiosk to provide an educational component to the solar panels.

The Greenbank Farm Management Group hosted a forum last week in which approximately 30 people attended to give input on possible sites.

Hastings said several people asked for a study of the flora and fauna surrounding the project. He said only a cursory examination has been done but that Island County may require a more extensive study during the permitting process.

The next step is to design the solar panel site and to obtain building permits. Hastings said the bidders will be sought to build the panels. He didn’t say whether the panels will be built in or out of the state.

Patton noted the project will take up one acre of the 154-acre Greenbank Farm property.

He estimates that construction could start sometime after the first of the year.

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