2011-07-28 / Front Page

Ayr Reviews Solar Energy

$60 million project to be built in phases
By Jean Snyder

Pictured is West Penn Power’s transmission substation located at the corner of Rt. 522 and Fulton Drive just south of McConnellsburg. Element Power of Virginia hopes to produce solar energy to be sold to the substation. Pictured is West Penn Power’s transmission substation located at the corner of Rt. 522 and Fulton Drive just south of McConnellsburg. Element Power of Virginia hopes to produce solar energy to be sold to the substation. Ayr Township supervisors met with representatives from a Virginia company on Monday evening to discuss plans for a $60-million solar energy project to be built on land leased just south of McConnellsburg.

Jim Madden, senior project manager for Element Power, a Charlottesville, Va.-based company, and Robert L. Dyer, a land acquisition consultant, unveiled preliminary plans for the project, saying they have a lease agreement with an Ayr Township farmer for 300+ acres of land adjacent to the business park off the south side of Fulton Drive.

According to Madden, the company hopes to sell energy to West Penn Power, whose transmission station is also located just off Route 522 south of Mc- Connellsburg. The location provides for an easy way to hook on to station, Madden added.

Madden said when the project is “built out,” his company expects to have a 20-megawatt facility that will ultimately contain about 187,000 solar panels. He said because of the economy, the demand is down somewhat for now, but the company expects to build in three phases, with seven megawatts in each of the first two phases and six megawatts in the final phase. Each megawatt (MW) of solar power provides enough power for 150 to 250 houses. The exact number depends on the solar resource at the site and the type of equipment used. Construction time for each phase is estimated at five months, with the total project construction to likely take three years. If done all at once, construction time would be about one year.

Dyer, who is employed by Atwell for land acquisition for Element

Power, said the location was perfect for the project because it is in southern Pennsylvania, which is most suitable in the state for solar power, and because it is located on a hill that will make it relatively secluded. He said the panels will likely not be visible from Route 522 and only slightly visible from Fulton Drive.

According to Madden, the rows of panels will be from two to nine feet high, with each row about 27 feet apart. He also said that solar energy is a clean product with no waste, and although it does use water, it requires very little water. There is also very little noise created by the transformers.

Madden went on to say that there would be no buildings on the land except for a very small maintenance shed. He said there would be an on-call operator, but there would be no one on site at all times. Included the plans were grading plans, setbacks of 400-500 feet, roads, buffer trees, landscaping and complete fencing The plan envisions three access roads, including one off Route 522, one off the Fulton County Business Park and one across Fulton Drive from the Giant Food Store. He said he is unsure if all three would ever be used, but did say that access from the business park is the best option if rightsof way can be secured.

Madden said that although the actual solar energy plan will not employ many, the project construction will likely create 30 to 40 jobs locally. He said local labor would be used except for some of the specialized work to be done.

Dyer said the timing of the actual construction will depend on the company’s ability to get agreements in place to sell the energy. Although the permitting process has begun, he said construction would likely not begin until 2012 at the earliest. The supervisors advised that final plans would need to be submitted to them for their engineer’s consideration. Madden estimated that would likely not happen until the September meeting.

According to its Web site, Element Power is a global renewable energy company that develops, acquires, builds and operates utility-scale wind and solar power projects. In North America, the company has 50.4 megawatts of wind power in operation or under construction and has 1,188 megawatts of solar and 6,091 megawatts of wind power in development. The company also has both solar and wind projects in South America and Europe.

While the company’s eastern U.S. offices are located in Charlottesville, the company’s North American headquarters are located in Portland, Ore.

In other business on Monday evening, the supervisors approved three subdivision drafts and reviewed a renewal contract from Comcast cable. The current contract expires in 2012. The supervisors noted that Comcast rates will increase August 1. While there is no increase for the “limited basic service,” other packages will see an increase of $1 to $6.30 per month.

The Ayr Township supervisors meet monthly the last Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the township building. The next regular meeting is scheduled for August 29, 2011.

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