State's largest solar farm being built in Crook County

It's among 5 planned in area

Solar farm under construction in Crook County

PRINEVILLE, Ore. - A new solar farm is being built in Crook County, and it will be big. When completed, the project will be the largest solar farm in the state of Oregon.

It's the first of five approved being built in Crook County and will produce around 56 megawatts, enough to power more than 9,000 homes. It's being built by Silicon Valley-based SunPower.

But while it will make a huge difference, it's not going to solve all the county's energy needs -- and is only a piece of the power puzzle.

"This is part of the power generation mix," Crook County Community Development Director Bill Zelenka said Wednesday. "It's not the sole answer. Because when the sun goes down, you still need to have power, if you're operating 24/7."

The location about six miles south of highway 126 is out of the way of residential neighborhoods, and the land isn't currently being used. Both factors were key in deciding on the placement of the farm.

"We've been very deliberate on trying to locate and steer people to that area, as opposed to other lands that have mixed uses, as well as irrigated lands," Zelenka said.

And with approval in hand, they're not wasting any time getting it built. They've already started construction of the farm, and the plan is for it to be fully operational by August.

One key will be the power cable that connects the farm to the Ponderosa Substation, between Prineville and Powell Butte. That's what will transmit the power to where it needs to go.

"You can have sun in the entire county, but you have to be able to move the power and transmit it -- so this is key," Zelenka said.

He said the bigger solar farms existing in the state are around 10-20 acres -- this one will be 320 acres.

There's currently no timetable for the other four solar projects under development in Crook County.

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