A Brief Background
The Observer spoke with several energy industry professionals engaged in the development and management of utility-scale energy projects to get some background information about the types of large-scale solar projects being proposed for Jefferson County. What they told us:
It takes 2 to 3 years to obtain approvals from the local grid operator (PJM) and the WV Public Services Commission before any construction can begin.
A proposal to connect a generation source to the grid requires an upfront agreement with a landowner to begin the approval process with PJM. In most jurisdictions the application for a conditional use permit for a project typically doesn’t occur until much later in the process (usually 2 years in, after the grid and state regulatory approvals).
A 138,000 volt transmission line has a capacity to take 200 to 300 megawatts of power. The proposed projects already in the PJM queue amount to 100 megawatts of new generating capacity to connect to the eastern line and 40 megawatts to connect to the southern line.
There are two 138,000 volt transmission lines running through the southern portion of Jefferson County, both of which are suitable for connecting large-scale solar projects.
In this region, it takes 7 to 9 acres of solar panels to generate 1 megawatt of power.
The ideal project location is flat land without trees or rocks, with a clear southern exposure. Large-scale generation projects are typically built close to transmission lines and may require construction of new substations depending on the capacity of the existing substations on a line.