Solar projects underway in Hempfield

Megan Tomasic, The Tribune-Review, Greensburg
·2 min read

Apr. 17—A microgrid consisting of more than 3,200 solar panels is under construction at a Pennsylvania Turnpike maintenance facility in Hempfield.

Located at 241 AKH Maintenance Lane along the Amos K. Hutchinson Bypass, the facility is the only turnpike campus that will use solar panels for power.

"The turnpike is looking into several other possibilities, but we would like to assess how this facility works for us and move forward from there," said spokeswoman Renee Vid Colborn.

In all, the Hempfield microgrid will consist of 3,224 panels that are each 405 watts, totaling 1.305 megawatts. The grid will also include a 1.35 megawatt natural gas generator.

Energy from the panels and generator will be used to power the existing maintenance facility as well as an under-construction trades building that will include shops for electricians, carpenters, plumbers and HVAC technicians. The building will include a conference room and office space.

Both the solar panels and generator will be connected in parallel with the utility grid, meaning any excess power will be sold back to West Penn Power, Colborn said.

"This will make the new building, along with the existing buildings, energy and cost efficient," she said.

The project, including construction of the trades building, totals $7.5 million. That breaks down to $3.5 million for the microgrid and $4 million for construction of the Western Regional Trade Shop. The project is being funded by the turnpike and is part of its capital plan.

Construction on the project began last year and is expected to be completed this fall.

While it is the first solar project for the turnpike, it is not the only grid under construction in Hempfield.

A grid that will power the New Stanton Wastewater Treatment Plant is set to go live later this month or early May, according to Matthew Junker, spokesperson for the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County, which owns the treatment plant. The grid consists of 10,950 double-sided panels that can catch light reflected from snow in the winter.

The 12-acre farm, owned by Denver, Colo.-based SolRiver, is located between Interstate 70 and Hunker-Waltz Mill Road near New Stanton, almost a mile and a half from the plant. Under an agreement reached in 2019, the municipal authority is required to purchase energy from the farm that will generate about 5 million kilowatt hours per year.

The authority will have the option to purchase the facility after six, 10 and 15 years for a value based on the amount of energy being generated at the time, Junker said in 2019.

Officials are now waiting for West Penn Power to hook up the facility to the power grid.

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, mtomasic@triblive.com or via Twitter .