New 90 MW Solar Farm Approved for Raleigh County WV Despite Opposition

by Duane Nichols on November 17, 2020

Michelle Rotellini, Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce, promotes solar project

Raleigh County votes to diversify its energy portfolio

From an Article by Jessica Farrish, Beckley Register Herald, September 1, 2020

Raleigh County Commission, on a 2-1 vote, welcomed the county’s first solar farm, a decision that was backed by Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce.

Raleigh Commission President David Tolliver and Commissioner Ron Hedrick voted in favor of a resolution to permit Raleigh Solar, a company formed in West Virginia in 2018 by Dakota Renewable Energy of Denver, to pay the county based on the amount of electricity the farm generated, with Commissioner Linda Epling voting against it.

The original agreement had offered only $1.4 million to the county, but Tolliver, Raleigh Sheriff Scott Van Meter and Raleigh Assessor Linda Sumner had rejected that offer. The approved version on Tuesday was an increase of $600,000, with Van Meter saying he would have liked to have seen the county receive more in the agreement.

Raleigh Solar is responsible, under the agreement, for treating the soil and for putting up a bond to disassemble all the panels, once the 15 years are past.

During the Tuesday meeting, Tolliver reported that there had been a change to the amount of money that the county would receive over a 20-year period. The county is now set to receive $2 million under the plan.

The Raleigh Commission agreed to accept the Dakota offer of just over $2 million for 20 years, or about $600,000 more than the original offer, said Tolliver.

Raleigh Solar signed an agreement to purchase about 600 acres on Grandview Road where it plans to place 1,000 solar panels, if favorable tax incentives are granted, according to Tolliver. A portion of the land is leased.

The agreement that Commission approved on Tuesday has no bearing on the location of the farm. The Raleigh Board of Zoning and Appeals must approve the location, Tolliver said.

Under county code, the agreement had to be approved by the Raleigh Assessor and Raleigh Sheriff, who is the treasurer of the county. Raleigh Assessor Sumner and Sheriff Van Meter both approved the resolution during the Tuesday meeting.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people over this, and I struggled a little, but I’m going to vote yes,” said Van Meter. “Because $2 million extra dollars for 20 years, I can’t leave on the table. “I’d like to have got more for the county, for sure, but I’ll vote yes.”

Raleigh Solar must now present the resolution to the Raleigh Board of Education for approval. Raleigh County Schools receives 78 percent of the funds. Raleigh Schools Superintendent David Price does not vote on the agreement, as was previously reported.

Commissioner Epling’s husband, Beckley businessman Doug Epling, had opposed the plan to allow a solar energy farm to come into the county without paying taxes. Doug Epling, who has interests in coal, had said that while he is in favor of diversifying energy resources in the county and is not “against” solar energy, he disagreed with the tax breaks that are being extended to solar energy, which could potentially cut local coal jobs.

Historically, West Virginia is a coal mining state. State lawmakers recently passed legislation that makes the state friendlier to solar farms but has not yet made explicit laws to allow purchase power agreements (PPA) in the state. A PPA would allow a solar energy company to erect panels on private property, at little or no cost to the property owner. Power generated would be available to the property owner, at a rate that would reduce the owner’s monthly power bill, and any additional generated power would be sold by the company.

Days prior to the Commission vote, Raleigh Chamber had issued a statement in support of diversification of the economy and the solar farm, with Chamber CEO Michelle Rotellini and Beaver Coal Co. General Manager Joe Bevel both voicing support of solar farm plans.

Rotellini pointed out that a diverse economy is a factor that helps attract Fortune 500 companies to a region.


See also: Raleigh Chamber supports solar farm, Beckley Register Herald, August 29, 2020

“In conclusion, the BRCCC supports an ‘all of the above’ approach to energy options to ensure the future economic growth of Beckley-Raleigh County and all of Southern West Virginia.”

According to information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal-fired power plants accounted for 92 percent of West Virginia’s electricity net generation in 2018. Renewable energy resources — primarily hydroelectric power and wind energy — contributed 5.3 percent and natural gas provided 2.1 percent.

The West Virginia Legislature in March passed a solar energy bill, a step toward diversifying the state’s energy portfolio. The law created a program that encourages the development of solar energy in the state.

According to statements by attorney Roger Hunter, who represented Raleigh Solar during an Aug. 18 public meeting, the estimated total construction cost for the solar farm is more than $90 million.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Zach Yack November 17, 2020 at 10:33 am

Raleigh County Board of Zoning Appeals approves solar farm

From a Report by Zach Yack, WOAY, November 10, 2020

RALEIGH COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – The Raleigh County Board of Zoning Appeals approved a conditional use permit for a new solar farm.

The solar farm will be constructed in the Grand View area of Raleigh County and be operated by Raleigh Solar. The solar farm will be used in addition to other sources of electricity such as fossil fuels, but the solar farm will be able to provide enough energy to power 16,000 homes. The solar farm will also add to Raleigh County’s economy.

“This will bring in an incremental two million dollars in tax revenue for Raleigh County, an extra three and a half million dollars to the state of West Virginia via the business and occupancy tax, and it will create 150-200 construction jobs,” said Project Principal Jay Schoenberger.

“They will be paying millions of dollars in wages, not to mention during construction there will be a lot of increased traffic at hotels, restaurants, and gas stations.”

The next steps for the project for Raleigh Solar to submit their storm water application, finalize the design of the site, and then start construction.


Solar United Neighbors of WV November 17, 2020 at 12:21 pm

Solar park built on rough wooden structures in France

From CéléWatt, PV Magazine, November 16, 2020

SUMMARY — French cooperative Céléwatt and engineering company Mécojit are building a new, 250 kW solar park in southwestern France. The solar panels are installed on a raw wood structure, sourced from the surrounding forests, to promote local employment and a regional natural resource.

French cooperative Céléwatt has started construction on a small-sized solar park in Carayac, a commune in the Lot department in southwestern France.

The 250 kW ground-mounted array, scheduled for completion in 2021, is built entirely on mounting structures made of raw oak wood. “Our original idea was to promote local employment and natural resources,” Bertrand Delpeuch, the president of Céléwatt, told pv magazine. “As we had no room for maneuver on the origin of our 746 monocrystalline panels, which are delivered to us from China by the company Talesun, we decided to focus on the poles.”

Some 600 oak wooden structures were used in the solar plant.

This region in the Lot department is indeed rich in oak forests. This straight and solid wood, about 15cm in diameter, is traditionally used as a bouchot (breeding support) for the culture of mussels in Charente-Maritime. “Replacing the galvanized steel supports of the solar park with raw wood from forests about 30km from here, this saves the extraction of ore and its transport from China, then its transformation, which is carried out in Portugal,” Delpeuch explained.

Céléwatt called on the engineering company Mécojit in Capdenac-Gare, with which it had already built another solar park. “It was a real gamble at the start,” recalls Olivier Saintignan, project manager at Mécojit. “To our knowledge, this is the first example of a solar plant with untreated, unprocessed wooden support.”

The project constraints are numerous, as the wood is not milled in a sawmill and the developer must take into account its different sections and imperfections. “Then you have to mount the structure on uneven ground,” said the engineer.

The project is being built without public support and will sell power to French energy cooperative Enercoop at a price of €0.08/kWh.

The first prototype comprises fixed connections and metal brackets at right angles. “It did not work,” said Saintignan. “The pivot links had to be able to move together to adjust the heights and create a plane.” Finally, the connections by bolting and the bores, are made directly in the field and the assembly is made by bolted threaded rod, which allows movement between the parts. The PV panels are fixed on an omega purlin, which has the ability to deform and dampen the natural movements of the wood.

To maximize the mechanical characteristics of the rough wood, the 600 oaks are cut out of the growing season, and to avoid any discontinuity in the fibers. As the trees are small in cross section, they were skidded over the shoulder by a local company, Le petit oak noir. “We have succeeded in employing several companies in the region,” Delpeuch added.

Céléwatt claims that everything has also been done to optimize the duration over time. “This is a very resistant and endogenous wood species, which will not fear weather fluctuations,” continued Saintignan. “The structure is made to adapt to the movement of the wood.”

While the risk of fungal colonization has been minimized, simple parts replacement solutions have also been provided. The stability of the panels will be checked every three years with visual inspection of the resistance of the wood, and a general overhaul will be carried out during the ten-year maintenance.

For Mécojit, what was initially a gamble has become a new outlet, marketed under the “Mécowood” brand, which the company would like to promote in other projects. “This raw wood table can have many other applications, such as the integration of solar panels in a wood storage shed or a heat pump … The possibilities are numerous,” assured Saintignan.


Wally Venable November 18, 2020 at 3:43 pm

” Raleigh Solar, a company formed in West Virginia in 2018 by Dakota Renewable Energy of Denver” – out of state owners

My examination of “Grandview Rd, District 3, WV” (suburban Beckley) on Google maps doesn’t show anything which a clearly a brownfield site. This might be cutting woodlands or using farmland.

“estimated total construction cost for the solar farm is more than $90 million.”
“The county is now set to receive $2 million under the plan.”
Payment in lieu of taxes – about 2.2%

I’m not speaking in opposition, but …


Jim Kotcon November 18, 2020 at 3:44 pm

Full details on the proposed Raleigh Solar project are on the Public Service Commission website, under Case # 20-0431.

The application identifies the current land uses as mostly pasture and hay production, with some areas recently cleared via timbering. There does not appear to be any mention of brownfelds in the application, and DEP mine maps do not show any mining at that site. The PSC granted approval in October.

The Sierra Club supported the application, with a few conditions, most of which were included in the final siting certificate.

Jim Kotcon


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