Solar

Thousands of solar panels tilt toward the sun automatically on a slope above Lind, Wash. The solar farm feeds power to Avista, which sells it to companies who want to have more renewables in their energy portfolio.

LIND, Wash. — Washington’s largest solar farm will begin commercial production next month in this Columbia Basin town better known for its annual Combine Demolition Derby.

Nearly 82,000 solar panels have been installed near Lind’s pioneer-era cemetery, resembling a mirage on the dusty landscape. Sensors adjust the angle of the flat, blue panels throughout the day, allowing them to maximize the capture of solar rays.

“In a really creative way, it’s an expansion of our agricultural industry because it’s harvesting the sun,” said Stephen McFadden, the economic development director for Adams County.

The solar farm’s output will help a Spokane Valley manufacturer 85 miles to the east move to all renewable energy.

Hotstart signed an eight-year contract to purchase solar power from Avista Corp. The Spokane-based utility is buying the electricity from the facility’s owner — Strata Solar of North Carolina — and reselling it to 60 large commercial and industrial customers.

Hotstart will buy 6 percent of the solar farm’s output, about 1.2 megawatt hours of electricity per year. That’s the maximum allowed under Avista’s program, and it just happens to mirror Hotstart’s annual electric load.

“We hit the sweet spot on that,” said Terry Judge, Hotstart’s chief executive officer. “We’ll be 100 percent solar.”

Hotstart makes preheating systems to keep large engines — which don’t start easily in the cold — above 100 degrees. The company’s products are sold in 180 countries.

Using renewable energy is “another way we can make the world a better place,” Judge said. “It’s cleaner air for our children and grandchildren.”

That’s a selling point for some Hotstart customers, who prefer products manufactured with all renewable energy, Judge said.

STCU also signed an eight-year contract to buy solar electricity from the Lind facility.

The credit union is buying roughly enough solar power to offset electric use for a building at STCU’s Liberty Lake headquarters. Data servers running the electronic financial system are housed there, so the building is a larger power user, said Richard Breitenberg, STCU’s director of facilities and support services.

With the help of a Washington state incentive, Avista is selling the electricity at the same price as other rates for large commercial users. The incentive is valued at about $9 million over the eight-year contract.

At 28 megawatts, the Lind solar farm is the largest to date in Washington. However, an even larger solar farm has been proposed for Adams County.

Innovative Solar Systems LLC of Asheville, N.C., has proposed a 40-megawatt solar farm about 10 miles northeast of Ritzville.

In September, Innovative Solar received a conditional use permit to build a solar farm on 300 acres. The company is working to secure a power purchase contract with a utility, said Mike Hill, land development associate.