Wilson Solar, a subsidiary of Birch Creek Development of St. Louis, Missouri, is proposing to build a facility on Jones Road in Venango Township, just north and west of Wattsburg. Plans call for a utility scale development occupying approximately 1129 acres. Wilson Solar states it has already obtained long term leases or purchase agreement/options for the properties involved.
The drawing above and the information here was distributed by Venango Township, notifying nearby property owners of an upcoming public hearing about the project on September 20th at 6PM in the township office, 9141 Townhall Road, Wattsburg, PA.
The various properties are currently zoned A-1 Agricultural, I-1 Industrial and R-1 Residential. Most land within the properties is agricultural with a small vacant portion zoned residential. The project will require a conditional use permit in order to proceed.
Wilson Solar in partnership with the Pennsylvania Electric Company plans to construct a substation on one of the parcels for converting and then connecting the solar power to the grid. All transmission and power lines will be underground.
The exact timeline to begin construction is unknown since it depends on Penelec which currently has a considerable backlog, but is projected to be within two years and take nine to twelve months to complete.
I-beam and aluminum racking systems driven directly into the ground will hold the solar panels. The maximum height of the mounted panels will be 15 feet from the ground.
It’s interesting for a project this far along in the planning process, with leases and purchase agreements already signed, and with the township obviously involved, that it’s not mentioned anywhere on the Venango Township website. As we’ve seen previously in other areas with renewable energy projects, especially wind turbines, public notification of the project seems to be delayed until the last possible moment giving local residents little time for review or to voice their concerns and offer input.
For those of us in North East, who are seeing solar projects like this starting all around and within the township, it should be clear that solar developers have targeted Erie County and the surrounding area as ripe for solar development. North East Township planners need to get a solar ordinance in place before more projects are proposed. A well considered ordinance can cover all of the bases and reduce the chances that something is missed when asked to approve each request individually.
Solar is currently heavily subsidized by the federal government and PA Governor Shapiro wants more renewables on the grid, so developers are rushing to install projects. As a result, we’ll be seeing many more project proposals in the near future. You can count on it.