Electric Utility FirstEnergy Corp is turning a coal ash landfill in northern West Virginia into a utility-scale solar farm. According to Natural Resources Defense Council, coal ash is the US’s second-largest waste stream behind household trash. In Maryland, the coal ash landfill is located on 26 acres in BerkeleCounty, Marlowe, West Virginia across the Potomac River. It is from the R.Paul Smith Power Station in Maryland, which was closed in 2012.
Natural Resources Defence Council stated. ” Coal ash is a general term – it refers to whatever waste is leftover after coal is combusted, usually in a coal-fired power plant. It contains arsenic, mercury, lead, and many other heavy metals. Coal ash is commonly divided into two subcategories based on particle size. Perhaps one of the reasons for coal ash’s relatively low profile is that it goes by so many names: coal ash, fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag.”
FirstEnergy subsidiary Allegheny Energy Supply Company was approved in June by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. It was approved to end environmental monitoring at the coal ash landfill after removing all regulated materials and permanently closing the site. Coal ash from the site was used in cement manufacturing for 20 years.
Also, FirstEnergy subsidiary, electric company Mon Power, will build a 6 megawatt (MW) solar farm on the coal ash landfill site. That solar farm is part of a new West Virginia solar program to build five utility-scale solar farms that, combined, will have 50 MW of power generation. Of the five, one solar farm will be located on a 27-acre retired ash disposal site in Marion County, and another will be sited on a 44-acre reclaimed strip mine property in Tucker County.
Mon Power and electric company Potomac Edison are currently accepting West Virginia customer subscriptions to purchase power from the five solar farms through solar renewable energy credits. Mon Power serves about 395,000 customers in 34 West Virginia counties, and Potomac Edison serves about 275,000 customers in seven counties in Maryland and 151,000 customers in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.
FirstEnergy explains solar renewable energy credits (SRECs). “SRECs are certificates that represent the environmental attributes of solar power and prove solar energy was generated on the purchasers’ behalf. For every megawatt hour of solar renewable electricity generated, one SREC is produced. When fully operational, the five projects planned by Mon Power and Potomac Edison are expected to create more than 87,000 SRECs per year.” Regardless, the idea to fill coal landfills with solar is not the first time. Once one starts to be filled with solar panels, there is the possibility that other landfills could be changed in a similar way.