Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Berkeley Goes Solar

Although the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority is considering installing a solar farm in the old Berkeley County landfill, board members are realistic about the many hurdles facing the project.

At the Solid Waste Authority's monthly meeting Wednesday, board members met with Colin Williams, the vice present of sales and marketing for MTV Solar, to learn more about what would be required to install a solar farm.

The envisioned solar farm would be around a 9,000-panel solar array on an estimated five-acre plot on the south hill within the closed landfill.

"That's a tremendous amount of solar. It would be by ten-fold or eight-fold the largest solar array in the state. It's a very large project," Williams said.

While the landfill provides a perfect southern angle for the panels to catch the sun, the steep slope of the available land would make it difficult to install the panels into the ground.

If the angle of the hill proves to be a greater problem then anticipated, board members are considering the possibility of moving the solar farm to another location within the Authority's 140 acres.

"I love this concept, but it isn't without its worries," said Clint Hogbin, chairman of the Solid Waste Authority. "It's tough to make a decision today for 50 years."

Another issue the BCSWA faces is since West Virginia is a regulated energy state and only allows a registered utility to sell energy, the BCSWA would not be able to sell any extra electricity generated from the solar farm.

The energy produced from the solar farm would be used to power the Entsorga plant, a mixed-waste processing facility, to be built on four of the 140 acres at the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority's Grapevine Road site.

To receive the electricity, Entsorga would lease the property the solar farm would be built on from the BCSWA. Entsorga would install the equipment and receive all the energy generated from the solar array.

"What they're paying for is the value of the hillside, the energy produced there," Williams said.

"Enstorga's estimated power consumption was going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 megawatts a year. I believe there is adequate hillside there to produce that much energy. (The artistic rendering) actually shows just over 3 megawatt hours of production," he said.

Williams estimated that the cost of the solar equipment alone would range between $7 million and $8 million. Since the project is still in the conceptual phase, there is no estimated start or completion date. Typically, solar panels have a 25-year warranty but last between 40 and 50 years.


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