A new developer is proposing to build a 75-megawatt solar farm outside of Seattle that aims to use solar panels made in Washington State.

Teanaway Solar Reserve, which began plotting the project six months ago, plans to install solar panels on 400 acres in a previously logged forest about 80 miles southeast of Seattle, near the town of Cle Elum, said Howard Trott, managing director of the company, during a press conference on Thursday.

It could become the largest solar power plant in the state.  The largest solar project under operation now is a 500-kilowatt system belonging to the Puget Sound Energy.

"This project will deliver what is a bright future for renewable energy in the state of Washington," said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who joined the project developer at a press conference.

Teanaway has grand ambitions. It intends to secure the permits for not only the solar farm but also a solar panel factory nearby within six months, Trott said.

The company would require approval from Kittitas County – no state or federal permits would be necessary. Teanaway plans to file applications during the first week of August.

The solar panel factory would supply the equipment for the solar farm, which should take about a year to build, Trott said. Teanaway expects to complete the solar farm in 2011, he added.

Teanaway doesn't plan to do its own solar panel production, but wants to work with a manufacturer to set up shop near the proposed solar farm site. The company has yet to decide whether to use crystalline silicon or thin-film solar panels.  

The factory would continue to churn out panels for the general marketplace after the 75-megawatt farm is built, Trott said.

Washington state homeowners are eligible for a more lucrative state incentive to install solar energy systems if they use equipment made in Washington.

Trott declined to provide details about financing the solar farm. The project could cost "north of $100 million," he said. The thin-film panels he's been considering can be had for less than $2 per watt, he said.

"There are so many factories coming online that the prices have been dropping," Trott said.

He also mentioned that Teanaway isn't looking for investors when asked how he would persuade investors to finance the project, given his lack of experience in solar power project development or equipment manufacturing.

Trott said he has experience in "sustainable resort development" and other complex projects. He lives in Kirkwood, Wash., and used to handle investments for the reclusive Craig McCaw, who started Clearwire and an earlier cellular wireless company that he sold to AT&T for $11.5 billion in 1994. Trott said he worked for McCaw for 22 years.

McCaw isn't an investor in Teanaway, Trott said. Teanaway might consider applying for federal money set aside by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It's waiting for the federal government to issue rules for applying for the money before deciding whether to do so, he said.

Teanaway would benefit from the state's sales tax exemption for equipment used for renewable energy generation.

The company now is made up of five people, and has hired consulting firms such as CH2M Hill.

Teanaway has a 20-year lease with American Forest Land for the 400 acres where the solar farm would go, Trott said. The location is sunny and close to transmission lines owned by Bonneville Power Administration and Puget Sound Energy.

"This is an area that gets 300 sunny days a year," Trott said. "Contrary to popular opinion about the rain in the northwest, central Washington gets plenty of power generating sunshine."

The developer is looking to sell the power to utilities, but no agreements have been reached. As for connecting to transmission lines, Trott said the preference is to sign a deal with Bonneville.

Image via Teanaway Solar Reserve.

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