The first of five planned West Virginia solar farms just came online – here’s why that’s significant for the state.
1 out of 5 new West Virginia solar farms
FirstEnergy subsidiaries Mon Power and Potomac Edison have launched a solar farm on 80 acres at Fort Martin Power Station in Maidsville, West Virginia, north of Morgantown.
The 18.9 megawatt (MW), 50,000-panel solar farm is the first of the companies’ five solar farms that, combined, will generate up to 50 MW of clean energy.
In August, the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the utilities’ request to construct Fort Martin and two other solar farms in Rivesville, Marion County (5.5 MW), and Marlowe, Berkeley County (5.7 MW). Construction of all three is expected to be complete by the end of 2024.
Mon Power and Potomac Edison said they plan to seek final approval from the PSC later this year to build the fourth and fifth solar farms in Davis, Tucker County (11.5 MW), and Weirton, Hancock County (8.4 MW) once customers subscribe to the clean energy they’ll produce. Construction of the final two sites is expected to be finished by the end of 2025.
To state the obvious, West Virginia has historically been – and still is – a coal-producing state, and it’s coal that still powers the vast majority of its electricity.
Coal has also historically been a significant employer in West Virginia, but coal-mining employment has nearly halved in just over a decade. So, the US transition to renewables means a change many in the state view with great trepidation.
That’s why FirstEnergy takes care to point out in this announcement that the Fort Martin site was built by 100 local union workers and that the panels, racking systems, and electrical equipment are all US-made.
As of the third quarter of 2023, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, just 35 MW of solar was installed in West Virginia. So, it’s no surprise that it’s ranked 49th in the US for the amount of solar installed. It gets a measly 0.08% of its electricity from solar power.
To reiterate, these five solar farms will bring 50 MW of solar to the table – and that’s part of a 517 MW growth projection over the next five years, which will bump West Virginia up to 45th.
That still means the state is a solar laggard, but for West Virginia, which has no choice but to embrace change at this point, it’s a start.
Photo: FirstEnergy Corp
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