Feds Offer $90 Million for Pennsylvania Solar Project

Federal authorities have announced a substantial investment of $90 million for a solar project in Pennsylvania. This significant funding demonstrates the government’s commitment to promoting renewable energy sources and reducing carbon emissions.

The project aims to harness the power of the sun to generate clean and sustainable electricity, contributing to a greener and more environmentally friendly future for the state.

The federal government has recently allocated a substantial amount of funding, totaling up to $90 million, towards the development of Pennsylvania’s largest solar farm. This solar farm will be constructed on a vast expanse of 2,700 acres of land in Clearfield County, which was previously used for coal mining but has now been reclaimed.

The Mineral Basin Solar Project, developed by Swift Current Energy, will generate 402 megawatts of electricity, which is sufficient to power 70,000 homes. The project is valued at $800 million.

This initiative is part of a larger effort to transform abandoned and reclaimed mine lands into sources of renewable energy. The project serves as a prototype that has the potential to be replicated in other former mining communities nationwide. It is backed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations under the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative is also backing this project, with the goal of ensuring that 40% of the benefits from federal clean-energy investments are directed towards disadvantaged areas.

Around $20 million of the project’s budget will be dedicated to worker training and community benefits. The project will collaborate with local educational institutions to offer job training in a 27-county region spanning Pennsylvania and New York.

The project will greatly enhance Pennsylvania’s renewable energy capacity, with the electricity generated being allocated to New York. This will help New York in achieving its target of 70% renewable energy by 2030 and a zero-emission grid by 2040. This arrangement is a significant part of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s most substantial investment in renewable energy thus far.

The Mineral Basin Solar Project is among the five projects chosen by the DOE out of 98 candidates to receive funding. The aim is to expedite the development of clean-energy on former mine lands.

Additional projects that have received funding include geothermal and battery storage developments in Arizona, a hydroelectric project in Kentucky, a solar farm in Nevada, and another solar initiative in West Virginia.

The Clearfield County site, which was mined until approximately 24 years ago, provides an excellent location for the solar project. The project has garnered local support, with minimal opposition expressed at public meetings. Clearfield County Commissioner John Glass and other local officials view this as a favourable shift from a coal-dependent economy to a future focused on clean energy.

The project has received backing from a range of stakeholders, including U.S. Senator Robert Casey and the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation. Robert E. Hughes, the coalition’s executive director, highlighted the benefits of using reclaimed mine lands for solar projects rather than agricultural lands.

Swift Current Energy intends to contribute $200,000 per year to the local townships and $1.1 million in annual tax revenue to the county, school district, and local townships. The company also plans to improve the local infrastructure by eliminating two low-head dams along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, creating a new paddling destination.

The project site is primarily open and levelled, featuring a preexisting electric transmission line that was previously connected to a nearby decommissioned coal power plant.

The land for the solar field will be leased for the facility’s projected 30-year duration. Swift Current Energy intends to cultivate native plants beneath the solar panels to enhance the soil quality and encourage the presence of pollinators. Additionally, they are considering agrivoltaic possibilities, such as cultivating crops or raising livestock.

In addition, the developers are exploring the possibility of establishing a battery storage facility in close proximity. This facility would serve the purpose of storing any surplus electricity generated during the day and releasing it to the grid as required.

Swift Current Energy, established in 2016, has successfully developed more than 2 gigawatts of utility-scale wind, solar, and energy storage projects across the United States. The company has ambitious plans to construct an additional 2,000 megawatts of renewable energy projects on previously used mine lands in Pennsylvania.

The construction is anticipated to commence in 2025, and the solar farm is projected to start generating electricity by 2027. The project is expected to generate six permanent jobs and approximately 750 construction jobs.

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