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Puget Sound Energy Picks EI Solutions to Build Northwest's Largest Solar-Power Facility

Puget Sound Energy (PSE) today announced that EI Solutions will design and construct for PSE the Pacific Northwest's largest solar-power generating facility alongside the utility's Wild Horse wind-farm in central Washington. PSE plans to begin construction of the solar project in June, and have most of its power-generating panels in operation before the end of 2007.

EI Solutions, based in San Rafael, Calif., topped a field of 12 finalists to build for PSE a $3.7 million, 500-kilowatt (kw) solar-power generating facility. It not only will be the Northwest's largest solar-powered system, but also will be the first commercial installation to use made-in-Washington solar panels.

"We're building a large-scale demonstration project to give our company, and our state, a better understanding of solar power's viability here in the Northwest," said Stephen P. Reynolds, chairman, president and CEO for Puget Sound Energy. "What's more, by helping to launch a home-grown line of solar panels, this project will give Washington residents an added incentive to install their own solar-powered systems."

As part of PSE's contract with EI Solutions, Washington-based Outback Power Systems will provide 10 percent of the panels for the Wild Horse solar project.

EI Solutions is a leading builder of large-scale solar-power systems. The company is completing the largest solar-power system ever installed at a single corporate campus - a 1.6-megawatt system atop Google's sprawling headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

"It is a true pleasure for us to be working with Puget Sound Energy, a leading wind-power producer in Washington, to integrate solar power into their portfolio of clean, renewable energy resources," said Andrew Beebe, president of EI Solutions. "We applaud PSE's commitment to energy alternatives that can provide tangible environmental benefits in an economically sound manner, and look forward to proving through the Wild Horse project that solar is a viable solution in the state of Washington."

Under a state law implemented in 2006, Washington households and small businesses can earn direct payments for every kilowatt-hour (kwh) of electricity produced from self-owned solar, wind, or biomass generating systems. The incentive payments from PSE and other participating electric utilities are much larger - up to 54 cents per kwh, with a $2,000 yearly cap - if the power-generating systems employ Washington-made components. For information on how to receive solar-incentive payments from PSE's Renewable Energy Advantage Program, see the company's Web site or call 1-800-562-1482.

"We are looking forward to working with PSE, EI Solutions, and Blue Oak Energy," said Mark Thomas, president and CEO of OutBack Power Systems. "The Wild Horse solar project gives us an excellent opportunity to showcase renewable energy in Washington and demonstrate the viability of solar power right here at home."

Blue Oak Energy, a specialty solar-engineering firm, has been hired by PSE to review the project's design and ensure that its equipment can withstand harsh winds of up to 120 mph that have been recorded at the site.

The Wild Horse solar project will have more than 2,500 photovoltaic solar panels mounted in two separate locations across five acres. Most of the panels will be located at an old quarry site too high (3,800 feet) for wind turbines due to aviation requirements, but typically above local fog and clouds.

The entire Wild Horse site, roughly 120 miles east of Seattle between Ellensburg and the Columbia River, includes 6,000 acres of PSE-owned land and 3,000 acres of state-owned property. The amount of sunshine in the area is similar to Houston's.

The solar facility, with an ability to serve the power needs of about 300 households, will roughly double Washington state's entire output of solar power. The Pacific Northwest's single largest solar generator today - a 132-kw system in Klamath Falls, Ore. - is about one-fourth the size of PSE's planned Wild Horse solar facility.

PSE completed its 127-turbine Wild Horse Wind Facility last December. The utility's Hopkins Ridge Wind Facility, built in 2005 near Walla Walla, has 83 turbines. Together, the two wind farms make PSE the largest utility producer of renewable energy in the Pacific Northwest.

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