West Penn Power, a subsidiary of US electric utility FirstEnergy, has started work to connect two solar farms, with a combined capacity of 220MW, to the Pennsylvanian electric grid.
The two solar projects are being developed by US-headquartered power company AES Corporation, which expects to finish work on the farms in early 2024. The larger project is a 150MW farm in Franklin County, and the smaller is a 70MW project in Fulton County, and West Penn Power expects to complete its connection work by the end of this year.
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The utility is building a new terminal at its McConnellsburg substation to connect the state’s grid to the smaller project, and is building a completely new substation in Franklin County to serve the larger of AES’ projects. West Penn Power will also upgrade its Guilford and McConnellsburg substations to improve the resiliency of the grid in the long-term.
“FirstEnergy is committed to supporting the global energy transition to renewable resources, and we are pleased to work with AES to help facilitate the delivery of clean energy through connection of these new solar projects,” said FirstEnergy vice president of transmission Carl Bridenbaugh. “This work aligns with FirstEnergy’s long-term strategy of pursuing opportunities that help enable the transition to a clean, resilient energy future.”
The AES projects will make a significant difference to the Pennsylvania energy mix, with the state currently producing 1.1GW of solar power, 24th among US states. The Solar Energy Industries Association, the trade body representing US solar power, expects to see 2.8GW of new installations over the next five years, 18th among all 50 states.
The state’s solar sector has been buoyed by new projects announced in the last few years, including a 70MW project built by Lightsource bp, that will meet one-quarter of the electricity demands of Penn State University as part of a 25-year power purchase agreement. The continued growth of the state’s solar projects, including AES’ two projects with a combined capacity of more than 200MW, will be integral to the long-term growth of Pennsylvanian solar power.
The news follows yesterday’s announcement by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council that the number of jobs in the US solar sector increased by 3.5% between 2021 and 2022, as the US looks to expand all aspects of its solar industry.