The Nature Conservancy Oversees 50 MW Solar Project on Former Mine - Smart Energy Decisions

Solar  -  September 15, 2021

The Nature Conservancy Oversees 50 MW Solar Project on Former Mine

The Nature Conservancy announced Sept. 13 that it will be completing an installation of a 50 MW solar array on a former surface mine in Southwest Virginia.

The organization will be working with Dominion Energy Virginia on what will be one of the first utility-scale solar projects on a former surface mine. The Highlands Solar project will span roughly 1,200 acres across the former Red Onion mine and generate enough electricity for Dominion Energy to power 12,500 homes.

The project will be managed by The Nature Conservancy and owned by the Cumberland Forest, LP impact investment fund.

Combined with two other utility-scale solar projects constructed by The Nature Conservancy on former Virginia mines, the total capacity of the Cumberland Forest projects will total around 120 MW.

“Southwest Virginia and the wider Central Appalachian coalfields have an important role to play in the renewable energy economy,” Brad Kreps, director of The Nature Conservancy's Clinch Valley Program, said in a statement. “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 new project will support the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which calls for Dominion Energy Virginia to produce 100% clean electricity by 2045. The Virginia General Assembly has also pursued legislation encouraging the redevelopment of former mined lands and brownfields for renewable energy projects.

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