Solar is often referred to as “renewable energy” because it uses a fuel source, sunlight, that doesn’t run out. But solar can be “renewable” in another way as well. Solar can make otherwise unusable land usable again. This is the premise of a new report from Downstream Strategies that examines the use of degraded lands for siting large-scale solar projects. It identifies more than a dozen sites across the state that would be good hosts for solar systems larger than 300 kW.
A mix of abandoned mines, hazardous waste sites, and other otherwise unusable pieces of land, these locations were determined starting from a base of several thousand sites. The report authors paired the list down by selecting sites that are flat and where the land is free of tree cover. The report highlights fifteen out of several hundred such sites with the greatest amount of clear, flat land located close to transmission lines.
The impact of developing even a small portion of this land for solar would create significant economic benefits for West Virginia. Using just 5% of the area covered in the report would create 8,000 jobs. As more West Virginians think about putting solar panels on their own homes, these types of projects could enable those who are unable to go solar at home to access the benefits of renewable energy.
Click here to read the full report.