Solar on the horizon in Jefferson County 

By Vanta Coda III, RealWV

As the sun sets over the rolling hills of Jefferson County, light streaks through rows of solar panels that dot the landscape of the Blake Solar Project. The 516 acre OPD Energy project, near Charles Town, WV, is one of the biggest new solar projects in the state. The solar installation will produce 80 megawatts of energy, which is the equivalent of powering 80,000-90,000 homes. 

Developer, OPD Energy, is a Spain headquartered company that is an independent renewable energy producer. The company is also a part of the United Nations Global Compact initiative in which their practices align with the sustainable goals set out in the United Nations 2030 agenda of sustainable development.

Some of the last rays of sunlight beam over rows of solar panels at the Blake Solar Project, on February 1, 2024. Photo

Braden Houston, managing director of solar development in the U.S for OPD Energy, has high hopes for this project and the community development that it will create. 

“This project diversifies the economy, farming, commercial, and residential industries, it also generates a lot of tax revenue for Jefferson county, providing jobs during the construction period and maintenance jobs when the project is in full operation,” said Houston, “It will ultimately be an economic benefit to the county.”

Conductor Power Renewable workers inspect wires that are used for energy transfer, on February 1 2024. Photo by Vanta Coda III, RealWV.

In doing so they have made future initiatives to bring sheep herds onto the property to manage the grass. “The sheep would be from a local business, which will come out and graze the land, trimming the grass down to a manageable level, from there the herder will rotate the sheep to different paddocks of the property,” said Houston. In conjunction with bringing sheep herds onto the property, they also want to bring beehives and seed wildflowers. “We really like the fact that this project is environmentally sound and it keeps the site its agricultural adjacent use”

Braden Houston crouches under some of the first solar panels that were installed on the Blake Solar Project site, on February 1, 2024. Photo by Vanta Coda III, RealWV.

Unlike residential developments, which permanently change the land, the hope of the Blake Solar Project is to offer up a temporary solution. “Our plan is to own and operate this farm for the life of the project, which is between 25-40 years,” said Houston. After the project time frame has expired it is ultimately up to the new owner of the property to decide what to do next with the land, either using it for development or returning it to farmland.

Rows of solar panels stand against hills in the background, on February 1, 2024. Photo by Vanta Coda III, RealWV.
Miguel Cantu troubleshoots with one of the energy units, analyzing energy flow that may have not gone through into the system, on February 1 2024. Photo by Vanta Coda III, RealWV.

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