A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Solar power plant proposed in South Linn

Written July 20th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

The notice of intent to build a solar farm in south Linn County included this map, showing the oddly shaped site 8 miles south of Brownsville.

A worldwide company is proposing to build a solar energy farm covering 2.5 square miles in south Linn County. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more news coverage of what would be the first new power plant in these parts. So let me give it a try.

In May, a subsidiary of Hanwha Qcells USA Corp. filed a notice of intent to apply for a site certificate for what it calls the Muddy Creek Energy Park, a photovoltaic power plant with a capacity of 199 megawatts.

The project’s modules of photovoltaic cells measure 8 by 4 feet. The modules, arranged in strings of 24 each, would be mounted to rotate to follow the sun during the day. Their height would vary up to 12 feet high.

The solar panels would be installed in three separate areas connected by 100-foot wide corridors. The complex would include a battery system, also of 199 megawatts, and connect via a half-mile, 230-volt line to Pacific Power’s Diamond Hill substation.

To talk about the project, the applicant and the Oregon Department of Energy have scheduled a public event for July 25 in the community room of City Hall in Brownsville. It starts with a meet-and-greet at 5 p.m., followed by a presentation at 6. People can also take part by phone or online.

(Instructions for taking part remotely are in the public notice, which can be found here.)

Hanwha is based in South Korea and has built power plants all over the world. Its U.S. branch is based in Irvine, Calif.

The company says that pending approval by the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council, it hopes to start building Muddy Creek in the third quarter of 2024 and complete construction toward the end of 2025.

The site is zoned for exclusive farm use. About 80 percent of it is in hay, pasture or ryegrass production, and most of the rest in other crops, according to documents filed with the notice of intent.

Rather than go through the land use process in Linn County, the company has chosen to have its project approved by the Siting Council, which the law allows. Once the state gives the OK, the county is required to issue the necessary permits.

In its notice, the company said it would conduct studies on the impact of the project on protected species and archeological resources, if any. Results of those studies would be part of the formal application for a site certificate.

The construction, taking about 18 months, would employ some 150 workers. The notice says they would likely seek housing in Eugene, Corvallis, Albany, Lebanon and Springfield.  Once in operation, the solar farm would be run by a staff of only one or two.

Waste material from the construction would go to Coffin Butte, the nearest landfill.

The company expects Muddy Creek Energy Park to be in operation for 40 years.

At 199 megawatts of capacity, the plant could potentially power about 35,000 homes, according to online sources. There’s nothing in the notice of intent on how many days of the year, or what percentage of the time, the modules of solar panels at Muddy Creek would produce power.

Maybe that’s what someone could ask at the Brownsville event on July 25. (hh)


The project site, outlined in black, is just east of Interstate 5. The green line is a Pacific Power transmission line.

24 responses to “Solar power plant proposed in South Linn”

  1. Ray Kopczynski says:

    This IS good news. It showcases good long-range planning for inevitable growth for our area…

    • Al. Nyman says:

      This is bad news as the cost of power will be considerably higher than we’re currently paying and will do nothing but take farm land out of production and do nothing to solve the looming power crisis. Until liberals recognize that only nuclear power, coal, or oil and gas have the capability to produce the power the country needs, we will continue on our path to third world status.

      • Abe Cee says:

        When we get to third world status, our power needs will be reduced thus this new project should suit the needs perfectly! Housing should be much more affordable for that inevitable growth as well.

      • Charlie Hawkins says:

        I have to agree with sunshine only 6 months out of the year and the extremely high cost, why would you logically build something that foolish that is a big waste of money and resources? Just for a few jobs for a short time that will disrupt the local community ? They didn’t even say the name of the little town they are building it right on top of, are they afraid to Brownsville? Did the local people get it this waste of money that will probably raise the cost of electricity while not really doing anything for long term power needs. If they spent the money on a hog fuel burning power generation plant that would make sense with the supply of hog fuel in the area and several mills with in 20 miles of the location they are looking at.

    • DENISE says:

      Who owns Hanwha Q cells?
      Qcells was purchased out of bankruptcy in August 2012 by the Hanwha Group, a South Korean business conglomerate. Qcells now operates as a subsidiary of Hanwha Solutions, the group’s energy and petrochemical company. Hanwha Group is a large business conglomerate (chaebol) in South Korea. Founded in 1952 as Korea Explosives Co.
      If it was an American company, I would say yes. Too much of the United States land is being bought up by foreign countries. We are being sold out to a lot of them and it needs to stop. I am sure there is an American company that could do the job just as well.

  2. Deborah Swenson says:

    I have to agree with AI Nyman. Everything he has stated is true. We are already losing too much farm land in the U S thanks to Butthead Gates and those allowing China to buy up our farmland.

  3. thomas earl cordier says:

    Solar panels are not long range planning. Temporary at best.
    Will the cells be elevated to allow animal grazing below??
    Who pays for the labor and materials to maintain? Who pays for disposal of worn-out panels–they don’t last forever.
    Dever-Conner decided not to give up farmland. So should Brownsville.
    Who is on the Siting Council; appointed by whom?

    • Susan says:


  4. Anony Mouse says:

    The dark side of solar must be considered, so here are a few more questions:

    1. In the 40 year estimated life of this solar farm how many panels and batteries (solar trash) will be replaced?

    2. Will the solar trash end up in a local landfill? Will this trash be considered hazardous material?

    3. Does the volume of solar trash over a 40 year period pose any risk to the public or the environment?

    • Snailracer says:

      Bingo. Was thinking the 4×8-foot panels had a halflife of something more like 10 to 15 years, so the refresh cycle of solar’s inefficient (failed) attempts will unnecessarily occupy valuable landfill volume on a cumulative basis: A hard ‘NO.’

      P. S. Great reporting, HH. Thanks for the best journalism in the mid-valley.

  5. Hartman says:

    It seems the usual pack of well-thought wizards are in the room.

  6. CHEZZ says:

    Coffin Butte is nearly full… In Benton County, there is a continuing conversation Coffin Butte is having to enlarge the landfill, which would take many farms and homes away.
    I hope the citizens of Brownsville, Junction City, Harrisburg, Shedd, Halsey, and everyone in between voice their concerns at this meeting. Farmland is producing grain and food.
    The winners here shall be PPL. Voices, be heard!

  7. Hartman says:

    A cursory survey of the comments submitted perfectly demonstrate why Albany is currently and will forever remain a backwater community condemned to oblivion by the reactionary views of it’s citizens.

  8. Richard Vannice says:

    This area is listed as EFU (EXCLUSIVE FARM USE} and by no stretch of the imagination can an installation of a bunch of solar panels reach the definition of “FARM” (an area where crops and animals are raised for human consumption).
    If the State of Oregon grants this application then ALL of the land use regulations should be thrown out along with all the people who are currently in residence at the Capitol Building in Salem
    We need Tom McCall back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Shawn Dawson says:

    I agree that this is just horrible planning.

    There have been so many articles about the destruction of farmland, farming communities, and eco systems (including this article below about what happened in the supposed desert in southern California).

    My wife and I took a road trip from San Diego to Phoenix this spring, without knowing about these farms in advance, and we just started driving through miles, and miles of solar panels, as far as th eye could see. I researched this more when I arrived back in Oregon and here is one article.


    The push to put up solar farms is not being thought through at all. The business just want to buy up productive farm land and plop down their farms. They have ruined wells, and below ground irrigation systems in doing so (not just in the US, but in England as well). And once that farm land is gone, it’s gone forever, so the crops the farms were generating will go up in cost in the future.

    Just looking at the massive amount of farmland on the map Hasso put up shows the extent of the damage that this solar farm would do. These lands do not just grow hay and ‘other crops’, they are a vital part of bird migration patterns and other animal life. Anyone who grew up around here has seen the geese and ducks and other birds which use the Willammette Valley for their migrations, feeding, and existence.

    And it would take a lot, lot, more than that to really help the valley’s population. Solar may be a part of the energy puzzle, but not this method which does destroy habitat, disrupts nature, removes valuable (and already shrinking farmland) and is just a terrible approach to using solar.

    The community needs to shut this down, show up and let the decision makers know that the science is already in on these massive solar farms, and they do not belong in the Willammette Valley.


    • Snailracer says:

      Nice post, Shawn. If carbon-mitigated energy in Oregon is the long-term objective, then micro-nuclear might offer a competitive ROI.

  10. George Pugh says:

    I object to these kinds of manufacturing plants being called “solar farms” and “wind farms.” They are in no way farms. Attempts to graze sheep or other animals is just window dressing.
    The venue for the Tuesday, July 25 gathering is small. I would guess a legal occupation would not be more than 50 people. This meeting is not a “hearin,” it’s an informational session. I suspect questions during the formal part will be limited.
    The questions I would have, if I could be at the meeting and have the opportunity to ask them would be:
    1. Was, or will, the proposed site purchases or leased and how will that affect local propert;y taxes?
    2. What encouragement for this development has been encouraged by the offer of Oregon and/or US. subsidies?
    3. At what rate will Pacific Power purchase the electricity from this plant compared to their current cost of electricity?
    4. What will the effect of this proposed plant be to the consumers cost of electricity?
    I am sure I will have more questions but this is enough for now.

  11. Bill Kapaun says:

    Solar company sells energy to Pacific Power. Pacific Power builds OODLES of FREE EV charging stations along I-5 in that area. Cost passed on to us. Solar company probably buying local restaurants next to charging stations. Restaurants feature overpriced “NN minute specials to match your desired charging time.

  12. Dan Roddy says:

    Interesting story Hasso, you got the scoop on the DH, protect your copyright

  13. T. Hamilton says:

    We’re constantly told that we’ll have global food insecurities within 30 years and yet we stupidly continue to build on pristine and needed farmland that could sustain and supply us. The reality is that for a Democrat led state who screams conservation and planning, we have absolutely no planning with long term sustainability in mind. Build these things on land that can’t sustain crops. It’s that easy. Same with housing developments. We’re now building for out of state folks and to create that long ago discussed Silicone Forest. We have no regard to our own needs and it’s to our own detriment when poor planning or refusal to look at long term needs occurs for quick money. If Gov wants to tell us what to do with our land, perhaps it’s time it started being careful with the dwindling land we have.


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