Inslee tours infrastructure innovation in and around Spokane

Sometimes innovation takes big leaps, ushering in a new era in the form of groundbreaking new policies and technological invention. More typically, innovation happens on a localized scale, taking the shape of brave projects and new ideas. Gov. Jay Inslee traveled to the Spokane area last week to see two new projects that will improve the infrastructure of the region and connect the community more easily to the future.

Largest new solar project goes live in southern central Washington
First, Inslee visited Lind, a town between Spokane and the Tri-Cities. This community may be small, but their creative ambition has made them home to Washington’s largest new solar farm. The Adams Nielson solar array spans 170 acres, and will generate enough renewable solar electricity to power 4,000 homes each year. With 81,000 solar panels, this array is 25 times larger than the current largest solar farm in our state, and is providing power to over sixty large commercial customers in the state.

The new solar array is a prime example of the type of projects Inslee had in mind when he signed SB 5939 into law, which expanded and extended Washington’s Renewable Energy Cost Recovery Incentive Program. The project is providing power to Avista customers under Avista’s Solar Select Program, which is made possible by the state production incentive for solar energy funded through state public utility tax incentives.

“It’s about time that we move away from antiquated sources of energy like coal, and develop more diverse renewable energy options for our state,” Inslee said of the project. “As we consider policies to address the threats of climate change, projects like this solar array show that there is a demand for clean energy, and that Washington state is a leader in clean energy development. As we look for solutions that will help our state meet our emissions reduction targets and put us on a pathway to 100 percent clean electricity, more projects like this will be needed.”

Gov. Inslee shakes hands with Lind Ritzville Middle School student body president Raegan Snider after inaugurating the largest solar panel farm in the state of Washington. (Office of the Governor photo)

The project — which is a partnership between Avista Utilities and Strata Solar — is a key example of how Washington is building clean energy infrastructure and transitioning to a clean energy economy.

“By taking advantage of Washington state tax incentives, Avista is able to cost effectively offer renewable energy to our largest customers,” said Dennis Vermillion, Avista President. “It gives them an opportunity to participate in a voluntary shared solar program that, in turn, helps them meet their sustainability goals.”

The new solar array came in response to a growing demand for clean energy from the utility company’s customers. Avista shared that even before operation begins, their customers who prefer renewable energy have arranged to purchase the green electricity that will be generated by the new solar array.

Gov. Inslee celebrating the opening of the Adams Nielson solar array with the workers who helped build it. (Office of the Governor photo)

New bridge reconnects Spokane neighborhoods 
For a final stop in the day, Inslee toured Spokane’s new University District Gateway Bridge. Once complete, this project will connect East Spokane to downtown in an area that is currently blocked by over a mile of train track.

Gov. Inslee touring the University District Gateway Bridge in Spokane. (Office of the Governor photo)

The new bridge will provide safe passage to bicyclists and pedestrians alike. This will expand the downtown region and create a safe, walk able community for students taking classes at one of the University District’s many satellite campuses. It will also improve access for all residents of East Spokane by creating a more centralized community for businesses, residents and visitors alike.

Fourteen million of the funding for the new bridge was paid for by the bi-partisan Connecting Washington package signed by Inslee. The governor brokered the 16-year, $16 billion Connecting Washington transportation investment package to address critical safety, maintenance and congestion needs across the state. This package also provided funding for several other important infrastructure projects in Spokane, such as the US 395 North-South Highway, the PCC Railroad and the Spokane Central City Line.

Gov. Inslee celebrates the near-final University District Gateway Bridge with local Spokane leaders. (Office of the Governor photo)

“The progress of our state depends on investments in infrastructure for jobs, clean energy and community developments,” Inslee commented while visiting the bridge. “The University District Gateway Bridge is a great example of this investment, and will greatly improve safety for pedestrians — especially students.”