Renewable energy company eyes Hanford land

RICHLAND — Tri-City interests are working with the Washington governor's office to recruit an international energy company interested in using Hanford land, according to a letter to the Department of Energy.

The unnamed company is considering locating a renewable energy manufacturing plant offering what should be family-wage jobs just north of Richland.

It's interested in 1,000 acres of property for a project that would create more than 2,000 jobs, according to the letter from the Port of Benton, the city of Richland and the Tri-City Development Council. Technical operators, chemical engineers and managers could be needed for the plant.

The company would invest at least $2 billion to develop the plant and wants to own, not lease, property for it, according to the letter.

The site targeted is on the southern edge of Hanford, just north of the Horn Rapids Road near the HAMMER training center. It's on a portion of the 586-square-mile nuclear reservation not used for the past production of plutonium.

The 1999 Hanford Comprehensive Land Use Plan identified the land as among the parts of Hanford planned for future industrial use. Most of Hanford is planned for preservation and conservation -- including the Hanford Reach National Monument -- but about 10 percent is planned for industrial use.

Carl Adrian, TRIDEC chief executive, cautioned that at any time TRIDEC is dealing with many companies that may be interested in the Tri-Cities, and most often companies are looking at multiple sites and multiple states for proposed projects.

"We kiss a lot of frogs," he said.

TRIDEC and other agencies have been working with local energy companies and public utility districts since 2009 when DOE began talking about the possibility of establishing energy parks at Hanford and other DOE sites where some land soon might have enough environmental cleanup completed for portions to be considered for other use.

Energy Northwest has proposed a lease of 300 acres near the Columbia Generating Station to be used for energy research or production by Energy Northwest or other companies or agencies.

But TRIDEC also has wanted some of the land designated for industrial use to be set aside for purchase.

The letter to DOE starts that process, Adrian said.

It makes a formal request to transfer 1,500 acres of Hanford land just north of the Richland city limits to support economic development.

"The transfer supports the diversification of the Tri-Cities economy away from reliance on Hanford as a primary employer," the letter said.

The company being recruited could have a plant operating by next year, which would help stabilize the Tri-City economy as the last of $1.96 billion in federal economic stimulus money for Hanford is spent late this year.

"Land transfer is necessary in order to attract long-term private investment," the letter said. "It also provides a long-term legacy not solely around the negative impacts of Hanford, but a partnership focused upon a balanced mix of uses and a long-term stewardship that leads to joint community, state and federal government successes."

The letter asks DOE to begin the "Excess Real Property" process.

"We'd love nothing more than to see our community land a big new company that brings with it a construction investment and long-term family wage jobs," said Colleen French, DOE Hanford government affairs program manager.

The key for DOE will be to ensure that the project is consistent with the Hanford Comprehensive Land Use Policy and then work through its required processes. That includes an environmental review with public input, a cultural resources review and a biological review.

As part of the process, DOE will do a full government-to-government consultation with Native American tribes in t he area before any decision is made to move forward, French said.

During general discussions, DOE has been very cooperative, but much would need to happen to make the land available, Adrian agreed. That would include discussions with other groups and organizations with interests or rights in how Hanford land is used, including tribes, Benton County, other cities and environmental groups.

Whatever the outcome, it will start the discussion about when Hanford land might be released and for what purposes, Adrian said. Agencies and governments will better understand the conditions under which DOE could be willing to make land available, he said.

DOE officials in Washington, D.C., are developing policies for possible energy parks at Hanford and other DOE sites. The 2010 National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Obama last week requires DOE to submit a report within four months on creating energy parks.

The report will include how the energy parks will be implemented and recommend any additional legislation that is needed. Objectives for the energy parks include carrying out projects related to the development and deployment of energy technologies and related advanced manufacturing technologies, including pilot projects, the bill said.

The energy parks also are intended to set a national example for the development of energy technologies in a way that promotes employment and U.S. energy independence, the bill said. The energy parks should create a business environment that encourages collaboration and interaction between the public and private sectors, the bill said.

* Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; More Hanford news at hanfordnews.com