Wise County, VA - Members of the Wise County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) gathered with project partners on Wednesday at the Lonesome Pine Regional Business & Technology Park to break ground on the site development phase of a 20-acre, 3.46 megawatt solar array. The solar project will be developed on previously coal mined land, making it the first of its kind in Virginia. The clean energy produced by the project will support the Mineral Gap Data Center, a 65,000-square-foot secure data center operated by DP Facilities Inc., located on an adjacent site within the park.
The site remediation and preparation phase of the project is made possible in part by a $500,000 Abandoned Mine Land Pilot Program grant, now known as the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization (AMLER) Program, to the Wise County IDA. The funding is provided by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation Enforcement and administered by the Virginia Department of Energy for the purpose of reclaiming eligible abandoned mine sites.
"Repurposing historic mined land for clean energy meets several goals of Virginia Energy," said Virginia Energy Abandoned Mine Lands Projects Coordinator Lesa Baker. "The AMLER program received its first applications in 2017 and we are seeing projects move from an idea on paper to actual shovels in the ground, this a testament to the economic and environmental successes it has to offer."
“The Mineral Gap Solar Project is an exciting investment in the future of energy in southwest Virginia,” said U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner. “By converting abandoned mine land into solar farms this project is creating new jobs, investing in the economy, and launching Wise County as a leader in renewable energy.”
“I’m thrilled about the groundbreaking of the Mineral Gap Solar Project,” said U.S. Senator Tim Kaine. “This development will help grow Virginia’s green energy economy and bring jobs to Southwest Virginia.”
“Reclaimed mine land can provide a platform for future economic development,” said U.S. Congressman Morgan Griffith. “Continued progress at the Mineral Gap Data Center in Wise County shows the way forward. Supported by funding from the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization Program, formerly the AML Pilot Program, this solar project will create construction jobs and power the data center.”
"Commercial-scale solar projects, like Mineral Gap, will enhance economic development opportunities for Wise County and the region,” said Wise County IDA Chairman Cliff Carson.
McFall Excavating, Inc. of Clintwood, VA was selected through a competitive bid process as the contractor for the site development needs of the project. The engineering and design phase is expected to support 20 jobs, while the site development activities will support an additional 12 jobs. The site development work will commence immediately and is scheduled to conclude in spring 2022. With site preparation complete, Sun Tribe Solar, a Charlottesville, VA based solar development company, will then work with Mineral Gap to begin the solar panel installation process.
"Sun Tribe is proud to be involved in a project that we believe is a true representation of what our leaders can accomplish when we work together to build a picture of what we know the clean energy future can and will look like in Southwest Virginia,” said Sun Tribe Solar Vice President of Development Rich Allevi.
Wise County’s efforts to support the Mineral Gap Solar Center were also recognized by the SolSmart Program at the Wednesday event. SolSmart awards cities, counties, and regional organizations points using objective criteria for removing obstacles to solar energy development. Communities that receive sufficient points are designated SolSmart Gold, Silver, or Bronze. The needs of the Mineral Gap project advanced Wise County from a Silver to Gold designation, with points earned from improvements to the inspection and permitting process and the installation of solar on public lands.
“We are thrilled to congratulate Wise County for achieving the highest level of SolSmart designation,” said Theresa Perry, Program Director for SolSmart at the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). This achievement shows that Wise County is on the path to robust solar energy growth, as exemplified by the Mineral Gap Solar Project. We encourage other communities to join SolSmart and help both residents and businesses access clean, affordable energy from the sun.”