Port nabs $283K in solar power grants

Funds will help provide renewable power at HQ, Grove Field

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Post-Record file photo The Port of Camas-Washougal was recently awarded two grants to fund the installation of solar and batter backup equipment at its administrative office and the Grove Field airport (above).

The Washington State Department of Commerce has awarded $283,000 to the Port of Camas-Washougal for the installation of solar and battery backup equipment at two Port facilities.

“We are very grateful,” said Port of Camas-Washougal Chief Executive Officer David Ripp. “It was pretty competitive, so we feel very fortunate that we were selected as one of the municipalities to get it.”

The Port will receive two solar power grants from — $103,000 for its administrative building and $180,000 for its Grove Field airport.

According to a news release announcing the grants, Commerce is awarding $35.4 million to Washington organizations and jurisdictions to help them provide renewable back-up power during power outages, produce clean electricity that will save energy costs for facility operators and reduce strain on grids when usage is high.

“As we saw last year during the Nakia Creek fire, airports can be used as command centers for emergency purposes,” Ripp said. “We’re the only area where planes can land if there was a major flood because we’re not in the flood zone. Pearson (Field Airport in Vancouver is) in the flood zone, and there would be no other places for planes to come in and out of. The backup power would allow us to keep our lights on — the airport runway lights and the tower light — and have internet service there, as well as power to run computers and all of that.”

Ripp added that the Port has an agreement with the Camas and Washougal school districts that the Port’s administrative office will act as a drop-off site during an emergency within either of the school districts.

“If the students had to be evacuated, they would be bussed here to our conference room as well as (to the nearby) Westlie Ford (auto dealership),” Ripp said.

The Port will also receive funds from Clark Public Utilities for the emergency preparedness project, which Ripp expects to complete in 2024.

“We’re trying to be proactive and not reactive,” Ripp said. “Planning ahead, having this as an alternative in case something does happen, we’re prepared.”

Commerce Director Mike Fong stated in the news release that the state’s investment in solar power with battery back-up systems will help communities better respond to power outages.

“Power outages impact everyone differently. Some of our most vulnerable community members face significant risks when the power goes out,” Fong stated in the news release. “These investments in solar power with battery back-up systems will help people receive the services they need most, whether that’s heating or cooling, medical care, or keeping devices charged so they can communicate and stay informed.”

The news release stated that funding for solar and battery storage projects is an “important element” of Washington state’s climate plan, which includes a commitment to a 100% clean electric grid free of carbon emissions by 2045, and that these investments “increase community resilience and create new business opportunities and good jobs throughout the state.”

Some of the grants will support planning and development work, such as feasibility studies, to prepare organizations to complete solar and battery storage projects in the future, while others, like the Port’s, will fund the installation of solar and battery back-up equipment at community buildings, ranging from schools and senior centers to fire stations and hospitals.