CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The project manager of a large solar energy farm planned for 795 acres of farmland in Jefferson County disagreed with comments given during a Thursday public hearing when she testified Friday before the state Public Service Commission.
Emily Dalagher of EDF Renewables, which plans to build the Wild Hill solar farm near Washington High School, said the company has had two separate mailings to residents of the Cloverdale Heights subdivision about plans for the project. Testimony from a resident Thursday said there had been little or no information provided from EDF..
The PSC conducted an evidentiary hearing on the project Friday. The commission has to decide by April 5 whether it’s going to certify the project, allowing construction to begin.
Dalagher said there would be no blasting during construction. She said steel beams used would be put into the ground by a small piece of machinery and they would be removed after the project is decommissioned and the land is returned to farmland in approximately 30 years.
“The pile driving that this construction uses is a small machine, much more smaller than folks might be familiar with that’s used in construction and bridge building,” she said.
Dalagher further testified the company has a land-lease agreement with property owners. None of the trees currently on the perimeter of the property would be removed and new trees would be planted near the solar panels to create a buffer between the homes and the panels. She testified the nearest panel would be more than 200 feet from the closest home.
“Because fo the square shapes of the panels and the blocks in the design, in most cases it’s more than 200 feet,” she said.
There will be a standard 8-foot tall chain length fence around the property, according to Dalagher. She said there are no plans for security cameras and no plans for lighting other than a light at the entrance of the project.
Dalagher also said the energy produced from the 237,552 solar panels would be available to electric utility customers in the local area.
“There will be clean energy for all of the folks in the vicinity who pull power off of that 138KV line,” Dalagher said.
Under cross-examination, Dalagher said the panels for the project could be manufactured in China.
According to the Wild Hill project website, the $125 million project will produce 92.5 megawatts emission-free energy and is expected to generate $134 million to the local economy, including $175,000 in property tax revenues to Jefferson County in the first year.
The PSC has previously certified solar energy projects planned for Raleigh, Greenbrier and Monongalia counties.