Utility-scale solar project planned for former coal mine

utility scale solar project virginia
Part of the 1,200 acres of former Red Onion surface mine in Southwest Virginia, where a collaboration of The Nature Conservancy and Dominion Energy is aimed at developing 50 megawatts of solar energy. (Courtesy: The Nature Conservancy)

A former coal mine in Southwest Virginia will be redeveloped for a utility-scale solar project.

The collaboration by the Nature Conservancy and Dominion Energy will repurpose 1,200 acres of the former Red Onion surface mine to generate approximately 50 megawatts of solar energy, enough to power 12,500 homes.

“This project is a huge win for Southwest Virginia’s economy,” said Ed Baine, president of Dominion Energy Virginia. “It’s also another major step toward building a 100% clean energy economy in Virginia. Repurposing former coal mines for solar is a smart way to enhance the region’s economy and bring renewables to Southwest Virginia.”

The Nature Conservancy previously announced plans for a solar project on formerly-mined lands with Charlottesville, Virginia-based Sun Tribe and Sol Systems. Together, the projects within the Cumberland Forest Project will total 1,700 acres and 120 MW of solar energy.

“Southwest Virginia and the wider Central Appalachian coalfields have an important role to play in the renewable energy economy,” said Brad Kreps, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Clinch Valley Program. “Some of the region’s former mined lands are well suited for solar development and by directing development towards these areas it will help us conserve the region’s intact forests for wood products, carbon storage, wildlife habitats, outdoor recreation, and tourism. By collaborating with Dominion Energy and other companies on these initial projects, we hope to develop a model that can be replicated in other coal mining regions across the U.S.”

The Virginia Clean Economy Act calls for Dominion Energy Virginia to produce its electricity from 100% carbon-free sources by 2045.

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John Engel is the Content Director for Renewable Energy World. For the past decade, John has worked as a journalist across various mediums -- print, digital, radio, and television -- covering sports, news, and politics. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife, Malia. Have a story idea or a pitch for Renewable Energy World? Email John at john.engel@clarionevents.com.

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