Commissioners join solar energy park group

Linn County Commissioners Roger Nyquist, Sherrie Sprenger and Will Tucker agreed Tuesday morning, June 13, to sit on a “special advisory committee” regarding the possible development of a solar energy park on more than 1,500 acres of ground about eight miles south of Brownsville.

The Muddy Creek Energy Park project is being proposed by Hanwha Q Cells USA, a subsidiary of the Seoul, South Korea-based Hanwha Q Cells. The company was founded in 1999 in Bitterfeld-Wolfen, Germany, where its engineering division remains. Information about the park was initially filed with the state of Delaware on June 23, 2022.

According to state laws, the company can go through the local land-use process or work through it with the Energy Facility Siting Council. Hanwha Q Cells, whose American office is based in Irvine, California, has opted to work with the Oregon State Council. Nyquist, the board chair, expressed concern that the maneuver was an end-run around county land-use processes.

According to information presented to the commissioners and the Linn County Planning & Building Department, the project would encompass the installation of high-tech, sun-seeking solar panels that would be 12 feet in height at their peak. It would feature enough units to produce 199 megawatts of power, including a 199-watt battery storage system.

Some 199 megawatts would provide power to about 33,000 homes. The company plans to deliver the electricity to PacifiCorp’s Diamond Hill substation via a half-mile-long power line. Major system components will include solar panels, sun-tracker systems, posts and other related collector equipment.

According to the company’s website, Hanwha Q Cells is the leader in market share for solar consumer panels in the United States at almost 34% and has held that position for four years. The company also has almost 18% of the commercial solar energy market.

Q Cells and Summit Ridge Energy, the nation’s largest commercial solar company, recently announced a partnership where Q Cells will provide 1.2 gigawatts of solar panels to support the development of more than 350 community solar projects during the next four years.

In other business, the commissioners:

♦ Approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Linn-Benton Housing Authority for the Mental Health Houseless Project, not to exceed $2.5 million in state pass-through money to build eight to 10 rental units for behavioral health supportive housing.

♦ Approved the purchase of 250 annual Microsoft/CDG-G computer licenses for $610.73 each, totaling $152,681 for the Linn County Public Health Department.

♦ Approved an agreement with the state to provide the Oregon-Alert Everbridge mass notification system free of charge for the Linn County Sheriff’s Office emergency management system.

♦ Learned from Planning & Building Director Steve Wills that the county issued 71 land-use permits and 307 total permits in May. Permits were issued for six single-family dwellings and eight manufactured dwellings, plus 21 permits for additions and alterations. Code Enforcement closed 12 cases and opened 11.

♦ Approved a $150,753 contract with Helion Software for the Assessor/Tax Collector’s office.

♦ Approved putting two tax-foreclosed Lebanon properties up for public auction at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9: 30594 Santiam Highway, with a real- market value of $198,360 and a minimum bid of $67,746; and 1730 Cascade Drive, with a real-market value of $200,250 and a minimum bid of $58,275.

♦ Discussed at length a May 25 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Tyler v. Hennepin County, Minnesota, 22-166) about how properties are foreclosed upon for back taxes and how funds received in that process should be distributed.

♦ Gave Law Librarian Amber Boedigheimer permission to apply for a $45,000 grant from the Jackson Foundation. If approved, the money would support a Landlord-Tenant Warm Line, mediation services and lawyer services to help people facing eviction.

♦ Approved transferring $95,000 to purchase an emergency generator for the Lebanon substation of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office and for an emergency radio system preparation.

♦ Approved closing First Avenue, SW Broadway Street, SW Linn Boulevard and Mill City Drive in Mill City for the community’s annual Fourth of July parade.

♦ Agreed that Neighbor-to-Neighbor will handle the county’s community dispute resolution issues.

♦ Formalized increasing the Teamsters Union cost of living adjustment from 2.5% agreed upon in prior contract negotiations to 4% due to extraordinary inflation costs.

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer