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New solar farm would dwarf production of two others in the area and produce 63 megawatts.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - The proposed solar project would be located south of Lake Simtustus on Northwest Elk Drive, just as it turns into Pelton Dam Road. The site is shown encompassed by a black line.Another solar farm may be coming to the area.

The Oregon Department of Energy recently received a notice of intent for a site certification for another solar energy facility in the Madras area.

According to the ODE, Madras PV1, LLC — a subsidiary of Ecoplexus Inc. — plans to build a solar energy collection facility on 270 acres on the northeast end of Elk Drive, west of Madras.

According to an overview provided to the Jefferson County Commission by the ODOE Siting Council, the Madras Solar Energy Facility would consist of a solar photovoltaic power generation facility providing a nominal, or peak, generating capacity of up to 63 megawatts.

The overview went on to note that the proposed facility would comprise solar photovoltaic modules connected to inverters, transformers, and a substation. Related and supporting facilities would consist of a collection system, 34.5-kV to 230-kV step-up transformers, substation, point of interconnection switching station, service roads and gates, temporary construction areas, operation and maintenance enclosure, and (potentially) an integrated energy storage system.

The Elk Drive project would produce substantially more energy than either of the two existing solar farms in the Madras area — those of GCL New Energy's Cherry Lane and Elbe Drive farms. Those each produce approximately 10 megawatts during peak periods, about 16% of the power the Elk Drive project is expected to produce.

Because the proposed facility is within the jurisdiction of Jefferson County, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners has been designated a special advisory group for the Madras Solar Energy Facility during the Energy Facility Siting Council review. The siting council relies on the county to provide it with all relevant local siting criteria, including adherance to the local comprehensive plan and land use regulations.

Janet Brown, the Jefferson County director of Economic Development for Central Oregon, said she starting talking with Ecoplexus representatives in the spring of 2018.

The project was drawn to the area, in part, by the county's Rural Renewable Economic Development Zone that allows the potential of property tax forgiveness for three to five years on structures and improvements.

A second options In lieu of property taxes to counties, via recent legislation, solar power projects can be exempt from property taxes up to 20 years, contingent on annual payment to the municipal government, in this case Jefferson County, equal to 7,000 per megawatt capacity. At 63 megawatts, that would equate to $441,000 per year.

The company would have to choose between the incentives.

The property targeted for development is owned by the Binder family, of Madras, and they negotiated a lease with Ecoplexus more than a year ago, "before I was involved in the project," noted Brown.


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