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Raleigh County Large-Scale Solar Project Has New Owner | Energy and environment

One of West Virginia’s first large-scale solar projects is moving forward under new ownership.

Enel Green Power, a global renewable energy developer headquartered in Rome, has taken over the project to build and operate a 90-megawatt solar farm in County Raleigh approved by county officials and officials. state utility regulators last year.

Enel Green Power purchased a 100% stake in the project as part of a portfolio of 3.2 gigawatt solar projects from Dakota Renewable Energy.

Operations are scheduled to begin in 2023 on a solar farm consisting of 250,000 solar panels on 530 acres in the Grandview area.

“What made it very appealing about this particular site was the major overhead power grid lines,” Raleigh County Administrator Jay Quesenberry said. “It’s very easy for them to put this electricity directly into a substation and put it directly on the grid.

Enel Green Power said the project will be the first of several developing solar projects in the state. Projects under development in West Virginia, including the Raleigh County project, will include paired battery storage to add resilience to the electricity grid as the country develops more renewable energy.

“In West Virginia, I think we have a huge opportunity,” said Nick Coil, senior director of regional development at Enel Green Power, whose North American branch operates 58 power plants of over 6.6 gigawatts powered by gas. renewable wind, geothermal and solar energy.

Coil said the lack of large-scale solar power generation facilities in West Virginia makes the state ripe for development that could generate tax revenue for counties and school districts, even though the mountainous terrain of the state may ultimately limit the state’s appeal to an industry that values ​​flatter land for laying down blocks of solar panels.

“Hopefully Raleigh will be one of the first of many projects in the state,” Coil said. “We are delighted with this opportunity to enter a new market. “

Coil declined to say how much Enel Green Power paid to purchase the solar project.

Raleigh Solar I, LLC, a subsidiary of Dakota Renewable Energy, estimated the project would cost $ 90 million before the West Virginia Civil Service Commission approved a site certificate for the project in October.

The Civil Service Commission order granting this certificate applies to all subsequent owners of the project, approving a decommissioning agreement with a minimum initial guarantee of $ 50,000 and requiring that construction begin within five years and be completed. complete within 10 years.

The Raleigh County Commission in September approved a payment in lieu of taxes deal with Raleigh Solar to inflate the county coffers by more than $ 2 million, with the bulk going to the Raleigh County Board of Education .

The project will create three to five permanent jobs which Coil says are “mostly local” and 150-200 jobs throughout the construction process which could take anywhere from eight months to a year.

Coil estimated that the 90-megawatt solar farm’s capacity is generally sufficient to power around 16,000 homes. The County of Raleigh’s projected power generation is about average among Enel Green Power’s lineup of solar projects, Coil said.

West Virginia lawmakers opened up the state’s solar market during the 2020 legislative session by passing bills creating a solar services program and favorably adjusting the business and trade tax for solar power.

In statements released by Enel Green Power, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., praised the state’s solar business and development while clearly indicating their continued support for the fossil fuels in addition to renewable energies. .

“I am incredibly excited for all the good that Enel Green Power’s acquisition of the Raleigh Solar Project will do for our great state and our people,” Justice said. “As I have said many times, West Virginia is an ‘all-in’ energy state. We abound in a diverse range of natural resources unlike anywhere else on Earth. Not only will this project continue to diversify our state’s energy production and enable us to power people’s homes in a sustainable manner, the ripple effects on our economy and our workforce will be phenomenal.

“The announcement of a major solar project in West Virginia is great news for our state as it highlights, once again, the abundant natural resources there,” said Manchin, Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee. and natural resources. “From coal and natural gas to wind, solar and hydropower, the Mountain State has been – and will continue to be – the backbone of the U.S. economy, and investments like this These allow us to continue to use all of the above for power generation and job creation while deploying innovative energy technologies and maintaining our country’s position as a global energy leader.

The Solar Energy Industries Association ranks West Virginia 49th in the country for installed solar power capacity.

Another large-scale solar project is planned in Berkeley County, which County Council announced in January that a renewable energy development company plans to install a $ 100 million solar power generation facility. dollars in a former explosives plant at DuPont Potomac River Works.

Bedington Energy Facility, LLC, a Delaware subsidiary of Colorado-based Torch Clean Energy, plans to invest $ 100 million to build a 100-megawatt solar installation on 750 acres of land on a site that has been designated as a wasteland. industrial “unsuitable for most commercial enterprises.” and industrial uses, ”according to a payment in lieu of tax agreement between Berkeley County Council and Bedington Energy Facility.

Coil predicts tremendous growth in the solar industry over the next five years, in line with current market forces, and claims that Enel Green Power will share the wealth by sponsoring STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and d other initiatives that rural communities identify as priorities.

“We’re not just going to come in and be a silent observer in the community,” Coil said. “We want to be an active participant and help the community. “


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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.