COLUMN: Central Washington is Leading in Clean Energy Production

August 26, 2019
Weekly Column and Op-Ed

There has been a loud nation-wide conversation about clean and carbon-free energy sources, and I am proud to represent Central Washington, where we are leading in renewable energy production.

If you drive through our congressional district, you’re bound to see the rolling hills topped with windmills, whose turbines generate about 3,076 megawatts of renewable energy each year throughout the state.

If you keep driving, you may end up in Adams County, where Washington’s largest solar farm opened north of Lind late last year. The facility is 25 times larger than any other solar farm in the state and, in addition to providing renewable energy to the families of Central and Eastern Washington, will generate approximately $4 million in property tax revenues over the next 20 years.

Tri-Cities has a storied past of nuclear innovation at the Hanford site, but Energy Northwest is making new history within the nuclear power sector. The Columbia Generating Station in Richland is the northwest’s only active nuclear power plant and is the third largest electricity generator in Washington state.  Nuclear plants like this can produce carbon-free, reliable energy for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which accounts for 10% of our state’s electricity.

Of course, Washington’s crown jewel of renewable energy is hydropower. The Grand Coulee Dam is the largest power station in the nation. With a 6,809-megawatt generating capacity, the Dam supplies an average of 21 billion kilowatt hours of clean, affordable, and reliable electricity to 11 states and Canada each year.

The Columbia and Snake River Dams produce nearly 60% of the energy in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. While other renewable energy sources rely on sunlight or high winds, hydropower can provide steady and affordable energy to the households of the Pacific Northwest. I have and will continue to advocate for these critical hydropower projects.

These dams provide many critical benefits to our state’s agriculture industry – from transportation to irrigation, but they also create jobs and help maintain our economic prosperity. With federal investment in both construction and environmental research, we are working to ensure our hydropower dams are being efficiently operated for all species and wildlife they affect.

I recently visited the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland to learn about some of the research scientists are doing and improvements they are making to our existing dam infrastructure to ensure salmon can safely cross through our dams.

PNNL was also recently chosen by the Department of Energy as the new site of a national grid energy research facility. The Lab is already known for their expertise on energy grid storage and security, which is going to be even more critical for our nation’s renewable energy future, and this new facility is going to ensure Central Washington remains at the forefront of innovation.

All of these renewable energy projects are vital to our region, especially as our country pushes toward a clean energy future. Working together with private partners, state and local governments, and other stakeholders will allow us to continue to stay on the cutting edge of this vital industry.

In Central Washington, we truly do enjoy an all-of-the-above energy strategy, and we are leading the country as we maintain, develop, and perfect our renewable energy resources. We understand the importance of having clean, reliable, and affordable sources of energy for decades to come. We should be proud of the work we have done and will continue to do in the future.