Business & economy, Local government

Federal grant boosts solar project north of Ontario

ONTARIO – Ryan Sheehy couldn’t hide his excitement about the news his solar farm project north of town will receive $1 million in federal grant money.

“It is super great news. I am overjoyed,” he said.

The $1 million outlay is part of a $2.3 million package in renewable energy improvements for Oregon announced by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, and Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon. The money is part of the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program and the 2022 federal Inflation Reduction Act.  

For Sheehy the $1 million grant is crucial.

“We needed it to make this all work,” said Sheehy.

Sheehy’s project is a 20-arce, $8.5 million solar farm that consists of 7,760 solar panels scheduled to be finished by the end of the year. The project is located north of Ontario off Malheur Drive.

Sheehy owns Fleet Development of Enterprise and its subsidiary, Verde Light Community Solar LLC., oversees the solar farm project.

Sheehy said when the funding arrives in the spring he will use it to pay down on a $4.9 million construction loan.

“It’s like wanting to buy a new car but you can’t afford the $500 monthly payment and you get a gift from your aunt and now you can afford the car,” said Sheehy.

The new solar farm is estimated to generate 8 million kilowatt-hours a year.

The project will deliver cheaper power and access to solar power for area homeowners and entities such as the city of Ontario or for low-income housing.

Sheehy said previously that the city may buy up to 40% of the power generated by the solar farm under a discount plan that could save the city $50,000 a year. Another 10% of power production is being reserved for low-income housing.

Sheehy said subscribers to the solar farm will get a discount of at least 5% from commercial rates.

Sheehy said the solar power will not replace regular service from Idaho Power.

Wyden said the energy improvement funds will make a big difference across the state.

“We can address high energy prices due to the volatility in the price of oil and natural gas by bolstering our clean, domestic energy supplies in every nook and cranny in our state and across the nation,” he said.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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