OPALCO’S Bailer Hill Solar installation needs to be approved | Letter

Agriculture is not a fundamentally economic zoning designation; it is secondary to tourism which is fundamental to the county economy … and to those (including me) who live here and consider that being here entitles us all to continue the pleasure of the same views we sell to tourists.

But neither we nor tourists can have it both ways: views of an exclusive agricultural, timber and fishing economy with energy intense 21st century livability. We look about … everything’s working. Why suddenly this gross incursion on our scenery?

It’s because our planning and OPALCO’s planning operate on two different schedules:

1. Ours: Immediate reward. If we need something, we go out and buy it or contract for it (either or both online) or do it ourselves. Problem solved. And if we aren’t satisfied, we leave. And so can the tourists.

2. OPALCO’s: All OPALCO projects, particularly in a county whose zoning laws, in spite of protestations to the contrary, support neither resilience nor clean power, have very long lead times. In my experience representing a major PUD, power needs, availability and capital improvements take a long time. Looking down the road five years is about all the headlights show, but major needed projects can take much longer. OPALCO has an obligation to supply power to the full extent that it is able. It has obviously concluded that relying solely on the Bonneville Power Administration may not be willing or able to furnish all of our growing requirements under its new contract (the existing contract expires September 30, 2028). There is a multi-state gold rush for clean power. And Washington, a state whose major power sources rely on increasingly erratic rain and snowfall, is not leading the pack.

Unlike the rest of us, OPALCO cannot just up and leave. So they are doing their best to stand and deliver in the face of many who, suddenly imaginative for alternative sites or thinking short term, see no need for this effort.

Despite aesthetic preference (including mine) and the loss of non-critical agricultural area, the Bailer Hill Road solar project is necessary for the safety of the people and the economy of our county. The variance sought by OPALCO needs to be and should be approved.

Bill Appel

Friday Harbor