TransAlta’s Coal Transition Board awarded more than $520,000 to five solar projects in Lewis County, it announced in a press release Monday afternoon. The funds are contingent on the applicants receiving grants from the Washington State Department of Commerce.
Across the state, the board approved $3.2 million in funding for 18 proposed solar projects. The money from the TransAlta Centralia Coal Transition Grants Energy Technology Board will benefit public school districts, communities and a rural hospital.
In Lewis County, specifically, the Energy Technology Board awarded $522,833 for solar projects for Morton General Hospital, the City of Napavine, the City of Winlock, Napavine School District and the City of Mossyrock.
“This significant investment in local solar projects around the state will improve the sustainability of the power requirements for these towns, schools and hospital,” the press release reads. “It is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 35,000 tons over the life of these systems. The Board is pleased to be part of developing solar resources in Washington.”
According to the press release, the funding for the projects is contingent on applicants receiving grants from the Washington State Department of Commerce, which are currently under consideration, and for funding partners to complete the projects.
“We had said if they didn’t get that grant we would not fund them,” said Lewis County Commissioner Edna Fund. “It would stay in the pot as we look at other projects.”
Fund said applicants should know if they will receive money from the Washington State Department of Commerce sometime in December, and could receive money from the board as early as Jan. 1, 2019.
Lewis Economic Development Council Executive Director Matt Matayoshi and Thurston-Lewis-Mason Counties Labor Council President Bob Guenther — who are both on the TransAlta Centralia Coal Transition Grants Energy Technology Board — were not immediately available for comment late Monday afternoon.
“These solar projects will provide a renewable source of energy and provide a great educational tool for school districts and communities,” said board member Lori Schmitt in the press release. “When reviewing the applications, it was also important to see that the energy savings, production credits and incentives can be used to support other aspects of the organization’s budgets. All projects will be utilizing made in Washington equipment and will provide for job opportunities.”
Angeleetta Hartmann, who is the Mossyrock city treasurer, said the city will use the money for solar panels to help with electricity and heating the community center. She said the city is currently working on obtaining other funding.
“It will be for the structure of setting up solar panels,” Hartmann said. “It’s a big, long process and we just scratched the surface.”
Hartmann said Mossyrock began looking at options six months ago to reduce cost and offer education for people in the area, and the schools, about solar energy.
“I don’t know a whole lot about (the project), but we have to learn to go green in some areas and that was one way to do it,” Hartmann said.
Hartmann said the city doesn’t currently have an estimate of how much money this will save. She said the city was notified it would receive the grant sometime this month or last, but doesn’t currently have a timeline for when it will receive the funds.
She said the solar panels will go behind the community center in a field.
“There are plenty of options, so I’m not sure what all it’s going to entail,” said Hartmann of the project.
No one from Morton General Hospital, the City of Napavine, the City of Winlock or Napavine School District was immediately available for comment late Monday afternoon.
These grants are a result of an agreement between TransAlta and the State of Washington that the Centralia plant will transition off coal. The company will invest $55 million to ease this transition, with $25 million earmarked to fund energy technologies.
“TransAlta has more than 100 years of experience developing, owning and operating renewable power generation facilities,” said Bob Nelson, president of TransAlta USA in the press release. “We are meeting today’s power needs while advancing the cleaner energy technologies of tomorrow. The $25 million TransAlta is investing in the state of Washington to advance renewable energy projects, such as these 18 solar projects, is part of a shared vision with the Centralia Coal Transition Boards, the Energy Technology Board and of course the successful applicants. Congratulations to our partners on this important milestone.”