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Solar farm planned for former WSX property on Brown’s Island

Officials with the Frontier Group of Companies, One Sun, the city of Weirton and other guests visited Brown’s Island on Wednesday after the announcement of a proposed solar farm to be built on the island. Brown’s Island is part of the property purchased by the Frontier Group from ArcelorMittal in 2017. (Photo by Craig Howell)

WEIRTON — Property which has sat mostly vacant for more than 40 years soon could be the site of a new facility producing approximately 40 mega watts of electricity to help power the region.

Officials with the Frontier Group of Companies, joined by representatives of One Sun and the city of Weirton, announced Wednesday a proposed project to construct a solar farm on Brown’s Island, with construction planned to begin by the fourth quarter of this year.

Once the home of a coke plant operated by Weirton Steel Corp., Brown’s Island features approximately 150 acres of developable land above the flood stage. The solar farm, to be developed by One Sun of Albuquerque, N.M., with equipment manufactured by China-based Yingli Solar, is proposed to be constructed on the center of the island.

“It’s basically a shovel-ready site because of its previous use,” James Holmes, chief executive officer of One Sun, said, noting the level property is ideal for construction of a solar farm. “It’s a great site for solar.”

Plans are to construct between 118,000 and 120,000 solar panels on the island, located in the Ohio River just off the north end of Weirton. The island was part of property purchased by the Frontier Group from ArcelorMittal in 2017.

“We are told it will be the largest in the state of West Virginia,” Craig Slater, vice president and general counsel for the Frontier Group, said.

An interconnection application for the solar farm was filed earlier this month.

City Manager Joe DiBartolomeo said the project will help fill in the puzzle for the future of the city.

“We think this adds another piece to what we need to do in Weirton,” DiBartolomeo said.

Officials also feel the project will help to spur additional business growth within the Frontier Crossings development area and other points of the region.

“Green projects like this typically can be anchors for other development,” Holmes said. “We believe there will be long-term job opportunities.”

David Franjoine, president of the Frontier Group of Companies, agreed, saying such an addition to the local infrastructure is expected to lure other businesses to the community.

“We really feel it will be a game-changer,” Franjoine said.

State Sen. Ryan Weld, R-Wellsburg, who attended the presentation, noted the state Legislature, this year, had passed legislation focusing on the development of solar energy opportunities in West Virginia.

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