The world’s biggest solar photovoltaic project won’t be in a conventionally sunny spot like Nevada or Arizona. It will be four miles north of Cle Elum, Washington, if the Teanaway Solar Reserve project goes as planned. Currently, the largest PV project is a 60 megawatt plant in Spain.
The 400-acre Teanaway reserve, located on private land, is set to generate 75 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 75,000 homes. It will consist of 400,000 solar panels surrounding ponderosa pine forest, but according to Howard Trott, Teanaway Solar Reserve’s managing director, the panels will be low enough to the ground (three to six feet in the air) that they won’t have a major visual impact.
In addition to the actual reserve, Teanaway will construct a solar manufacturing facility in Cle Elum to build panels for the project. Teanaway won’t build its own panels–instead, it will take bids from manufacturers to run the facility. Trott hopes that having the building already in place will make it attractive to potential solar companies.
There’s still a long way to go before the Teanaway Solar Reserve, projected to cost over $100 million, becomes a reality. The project doesn’t have any permits yet–Trott says his team just went into a pre-application meeting yesterday–and the bureaucratic process will take at least six months. Once everything is set, construction is expected to begin in spring 2010, with the panels operational by fall of 2011. Of course, there’s a big “if” involved in the whole plan. And as the T. Boone Pickens debacle has shown us, not every grandiose renewable energy project pans out as expected.