MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – FirstEnergy subsidiaries, Mon Power and Potomac Edison, seek approval from the State Civil Service Commission to build five large-scale solar power projects that would generate 50 megawatts of clean, renewable energy in their service area. Adding renewable energy is also expected to help make West Virginia more attractive for business development.
State lawmakers passed a bill in 2020 that allows utilities to own and operate up to 200 megawatts of renewable power generation capacity.
Bowles Rice’s attorney, Jim Kelsh, worked with the legislature to create the fast track to approving solar projects.
“This is the first request from one of the state’s two main electric utilities to ask the PSC to approve the development of solar generation which will be owned by the utilities,” Kelsh said.
Part of the legislation requires the PSC to rule on requests within 150 days, cutting the previous review time in half. By streamlining solar site certificate rules, lawmakers hope to attract projects to create construction jobs and increase economic development.
West Virginia Development Office executive director Mike Graney told lawmakers the addition would open the state up to recruiting employers with renewable requirements when selecting sites for relocation.
“The PSC has, in the cases where I have been involved, exceeded that deadline by a comfortable margin,” Kelsh said. “I am sure PSC will meet the deadline for the My Power application.”
Solar fields will be built in West Virginia at a 26-acre salvaged ash disposal site in Berkley County, a 51-acre site in Hancock County, a 44-acre reclaimed open-pit mine in the county de Tucker and a 95-acre site in Monongalia County, according to Will Boye, spokesperson for Mon Power.
“This is the first time that we are doing this in any state,” Boye said. “We have a team working on it now and we will be hiring local construction workers to help us build these projects. “
The 95-acre site in Monongalia County is located in the Fort Martin area on property currently owned by Mon Power.
“It’s going to generate just over 10 megawatts of solar power once we get state approval to go ahead,” Boye said. “Mon County is one of the biggest sites.”
The PSC is expected to rule on the request by mid-2022, when engineering and construction will begin. Construction could be completed by 2025. My Power will invest approximately $ 100 million in the five projects.
In 2020, West Virginia was the country’s second-largest coal producer, after Wyoming, and also accounted for 13% of West Virginia in the United States, ranked fifth in the country for natural gas production. Eighty-eight percent of the electricity produced in the state in 2020 came from coal-fired power plants.
“We see it (solar) as part of our generation mix,” Boye said. “At this time, we do not have any revolving options for our customers in West Virginia. So 50 megawatts and we will be able to produce up to 200 megawatts, we don’t think that’s a substitute for anything. “