Prove your humanity

The Department of Energy is awarding $90 million to a company that has promised to build what would be the largest solar project in the state on a former coal mine in central Pennsylvania.

The 402-megawatt solar farm would be the largest in the state. The award goes to Delaware-based Mineral Basin Solar LLC, a subsidiary of the Boston-based clean energy developer Swift Current Energy. The energy produced would be enough to power 70,000 homes, the DOE said in a press release.

The grant is part of the $475 million the department is awarding to projects around the country to promote clean energy on former minelands. Other projects include a pumped hydroelectric storage dam in Kentucky and a solar farm in West Virginia. Funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed by President Biden in 2021.

The DOE chose Mineral Basin project and four others out of an initial pool of 98 applicants, according to a DOE spokesperson. Projects selected for the awards were graded on a combination of technical merit, financial viability, community benefits, ability to complete the project quickly, and track record of the management team. Swift Current has completed nine other wind and solar farms, mainly in Texas and Illinois.

The Pennsylvania project would be built on 2,700 acres of former mine land in Goshen and Girard towships in Clearfield County, about 20 miles northwest of State College.  The land sits along the bank of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

“The land really isn’t in much use,” said John Sobel, a Clearfield County commissioner. “Now it’s going to be used again for the production of energy, which is obviously always a need in this country. So I think that’s kind of exciting.”

Sobel said he hopes the project brings economic development and increased revenue to the county.

“Projects such as this obviously attract additional future investment from other companies that want to take advantage of it,” he said.

About $20 million of the project will go toward local initiatives, like worker training and funding local fire departments.

The DOE estimates the project will entail 750 construction jobs and six permanent jobs for the site.

It will utilize unused electric transmission lines from the recently shuttered Homer City generating station, about 50 miles to the west of the site. The project would “fill a critical electricity-generation gap following the closure of the Homer City coal plant,” the department said in its press release.

Both the DOE and representatives of Swift Current Energy declined interview requests. A public webinar on the project will take place on April 2nd.

This story has been updated to include information from the Department of Energy on the project award process.