The Nature Conservancy and Dominion Energy Virginia plan to convert roughly 1,200 acres of the former Red Onion surface coal mine and surrounding properties in Wise and Dickenson Counties into a 50 MW solar installation, the Highlands Solar project.
Over the next two to three years, Dominion Energy will conduct field studies, develop the project plans, and complete local and state permitting processes. The company will jointly develop the project with Antares Group, which will serve as the owner’s engineer. The company plans to begin construction at the site in far southwest Virginia in 2024 or 2025, subject to review and approval by the Virginia State Corporation Commission.
The collaboration builds on The Nature Conservancy’s ongoing effort to develop the first utility-scale solar projects on former surface mines in the coalfields of southwest Virginia and surrounding states. In May, the group announced partnerships with Sol Systems and Sun Tribe to develop utility-scale solar projects within the Cumberland Forest Project in Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky.
According to a Nature Conservancy release, The Cumberland Forest Project was put in action to show that investments in nature can yield financial returns and critical conservation results while returning value to local communities.
It has not yet been shared to whom the electricity generated by the Cumberland Forest Project will be sold. However, with a targeted construction and operation dates tentatively set in 2023 and 2024, plenty of time remains for those buyers to be announced. Similarly, no offtake buyer has been announced for the Highlands Solar project.
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