Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the permanently closed site will be replaced by a 6 MW project.

FirstEnergy Corp., the utility that serves West Virginia, has announced that it will permanently close its coal ash facility and, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, a solar installation will take its place. The company plans to build the 6MW site as part of a larger 50MW solar portfolio.

Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal to generate electricity, is the second largest waste stream after household garbage. It contains toxic chemicals such as arsenic and lead and is usually buried in a landfill. This facility used ash to produce cement and dispose of toxic materials in a landfill.

FirstEnergy subsidiary Mon Power will build the solar facility on the 27-acre site. Another solar facility will be built on a 44-acre reclaimed coal mine site.

Mon Power and Potomac Edison are accepting applications to sign up for a utility-run “community” solar program. The program allows customers to purchase renewable energy credits representing the production of solar installations. Loans are used to offset utility costs.

Earlier this year, the largest solar project in the state’s history was announced, a 250 MW project to be located on a former coal strip. With only 20 MW of solar installed in the state to date, this project will be a landmark in the progress of the state’s energy transition.

A view from the summit of Coal Mountain in West Virginia.

Image: Kent Mason

According to project officials, the project is planned to be located on 3,000 acres on what used to be the Hobbett open pit mine in southern West Virginia. Construction is expected to employ up to 300 workers, and the total cost of the project is estimated to be about $320 million, far more than the state’s total solar investment of $54 million previously, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. (SEIA).

The solar array will be developed by Savion, while SEVA WV will manage the other developments as part of a multi-phase project to revitalize the former mine site with additional investment in industrial, residential, hospitality and leisure, including 80 miles of new routes. as an extension of the Hatfield-McCoy ATV system.

In 2020, the state passed a bill that allows electric utilities to own and operate up to 200 MW of renewable energy capacity to help meet the state’s electricity needs. The statement said the addition of new renewable energy sources could boost economic development as “a growing number of companies” require some of the electricity they buy to be generated from renewable sources.

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