Raleigh County Commissioners have agreed to provide Raleigh Solar with a 12-month conditional use permit extension that will give American Electric Power (AEP) the time needed to get up to speed with the project.
According to Raleigh County Attorney Bill Roop, who spoke before the commission during their regular meeting on Sept. 7, he received a letter on Aug. 30 from Raleigh Solar officials asking for the extension.
“Part of the problem is they are waiting on AEP to get some of the transmission and get some of the requirements that AEP has to get them up to speed and online,” Roop stated. He advised the commissioners to go forward with the extension.
Raleigh Solar, now owned by Enel Green Power based in Italy, is planning a 90-megawatt solar energy generating facility to be located at Grandview.
The facility, initially proposed under Denver-based Dakota Renewable Energy as an exempt wholesale generator, will include 250,000 individual solar panels and span across approximately 529 acres of agricultural land and former wooded areas, according to the siting agreement filed by the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) on Oct. 5, 2020. The facility will connect to overhead 138kV transmission lines owned by AEP.
Raleigh County Administrator Jay Quesenberry told the West Virginia Daily News after the commission meeting that the conditional use permit extension just gives those at Raleigh Solar more time to deal with all the snags that come along with such a large project.
“They are putting $90 million into this project,” Quesenberry said of Raleigh Solar. “It’s a great investment to have in Raleigh County.” He added that this is the first solar farm in the state.
In a conversation with Raleigh Solar officials earlier this year, Quesenberry stated that they only had nice things to say about West Virginia.
“They said that West Virginia was the best state that they have — the easiest to work with county and state government — and they have 11 different states,” Quesenberry noted. “They like the way West Virginia does business and they are looking for other investments in the state, as well.”
“When states get these kinds of investments, considered green investments for renewable power, other companies look at that —that we are doing green things here, and they want to invest in the state, as well,” Quesenberry continued. “They want to invest in states that are doing good things for the environment and that’s a good attraction for other businesses and other factories. Hopefully, this will create the domino effect — this happens and other things will come.”
The site, located adjacent to Grandview Road, has high voltage transmission lines running overhead, which, according to Quesenberry, made it the perfect location to construct a solar power facility because it allows AEP to easily build a substation and connect the facility to those transmission lines. However, even being that close to the transmission lines, it will still take Raleigh Solar a minimum of three years to connect to the grid.
The PSC has ordered that Raleigh Solar begin “continuous construction of the facility in five years, to complete construction within 10 years, and to enter into a decommissioning agreement with the Raleigh County Commission,” the siting agreement states.
On Sept. 1, 2020, the Raleigh County Commission entered into a payment-in-lieu-of-tax agreement with Raleigh Solar. This agreement will financially help Raleigh Solar as they build the facility, Quesenberry said. Additionally, the commission agreed to set aside $50,000 for site decommissioning when the time comes.
During the recent county commission meeting, commissioners postponed clarification on the decommissioning agreement until Raleigh Solar could provide them with additional information.
According to the Raleigh Solar Project website, the solar farm will generate enough electricity to power 16,000 homes. Facility output will be sold into the PJM interconnection wholesale electricity market.
“To think that we will be generating enough power in Raleigh County for 16,000 homes is pretty exciting because we don’t have anything like that,” Quesenberry said. “You don’t hear of any new power plants being built, I mean, this is a really good thing for the community and the state in general.”
It is anticipated that the majority of funds the county will receive from the solar project will go into Raleigh County Schools.