Solar farm planned for former Garrett coal mine

Mar. 18—OAKLAND — Garrett County's commissioners on Tuesday heard a presentation from a representative of Competitive Power Ventures about its Backbone Solar Farm project on the site of a reclaimed coal mine.

The company's estimate is that the facility will be a more than $200 million investment and result in about 150 to 200 jobs during construction, as well as local tax revenue.

The facility will sit on about 2,000 acres at the former Vindex/Arch coal mining site north of Kitzmiller and be a 175 megawatt facility, which will produce over 300,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year. Solar arrays will sit on about 1,100 acres.

The average U.S. household uses about 10 megawatt hours per year, said John Hafner, so the Backbone project could provide about 30,000 homes worth of power per year, more than double the number of homes in the county.

"The old purpose of the site (was) for coal mining; it's gone through everything it can get through. Now we can repurpose that site and continue to utilize it to benefit the community," said Hafner.

"A large portion of the site is that reclaimed coal and the rest of the site (has) a lot of trees surrounding everything. It's a very well secluded area at the same time, it's a heavily impacted area from all of that work," he said.

The land has been both deep mined and strip mined.

"We plan to start construction next year, a little over a year from now. We started working on the project about a year ago. Two years for an energy project is a pretty rapid pace," said Hafner. "Construction is expected to last about 14 to 16 months, so that puts us in mid-to-late 2023 completion of construction."

The reduction of carbon emissions from a project of this size is expected to be like the equivalent of 50,000 cars coming off the road, he said.

"I think it's a great idea. I like the location," said commission Chairman Paul Edwards "It makes a ton of sense in a lot of ways."

Follow staff writer Brandon Glass on Twitter @Bglass13.