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Energy & Environment

PSC Gives Go Ahead To Raleigh County Solar Project

solar-panels.jpg
Tre' Sexton
/
Bluegrass Solar

West Virginia regulators have issued a key approval for a proposed solar project in the southern part of the state that is estimated to generate enough power for 16,000 West Virginia homes annually — the first project approved under a new utility solar bill passed by the Legislature earlier this year.

The West Virginia Public Service Commission on Monday granted a siting certificate for a 90- megawatt solar farm in Raleigh County. The $90 million project by developer Raleigh Solar I, LLC, would consist of about 250,000 solar panels located on about 530 acres of largely undeveloped, wooded area east and west of Grandview Road immediately north of I-64.

Under the agreement, the PSC is requiring Raleigh Solar to begin construction within five years and finish within 10. According to the project’s website, developers hope to have the panels operational in late 2022 or 2023.

The project is being developed by Colorado-based Dakota Power Partners. The PSC says the company has agreed to use local union workers to build the project. Developers estimate it will create 150-200 construction jobs and 3-5 long-term, full-time positions.

This is the first siting certificate issued since the passage of Senate Bill 583. The bill, which was requested by economic development officials at the state Department of Commerce and at times was the center of contentious debate among lawmakers, creates a utility solar program in West Virginia. Supporters of the bill argued having access to solar power is crucial in order to help draw new businesses to the state. Opponents feared new solar generation could displace coal. West Virginia is ranked 48th in the nation for installed solar capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

The bill also required the PSC to develop a specific administrative process to streamline the application of siting certificates from solar wholesale generators. A review of the PSC docket shows the Raleigh County project drew support from groups including the state Commerce Department and Sierra Club, as well as numerous state lawmakers.

“The presence of a 90-megawatt (MW) utility-scale solar energy generating facility in Southern West Virginia would be an extremely useful tool as we seek to recruit employers and encourage expansion of existing companies,” wrote Michael Graney, executive director of the West Virginia Development Office in a May 2020 letter to the PSC.

The siting certificate is conditioned upon Raleigh Solar receiving all other necessary permits and approvals, the agency said in a news release.

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