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Solar farm will be an opportunity for our region

The Weirton community received a bit of bright news last week with the announcement of plans to construct a 40 megawatt solar farm in the city.

The project, proposed for the central area of Brown’s Island, would be developed and operated by One Sun, a company from Albuquerque, N.M. The 118,000 to 120,000 solar panels and related equipment would be built by Chinese firm Yingli Solar. Overall, the project has an estimated cost of $41 million.

This is something that will be a new concept to our area. Solar power on such a scale is relatively new to Appalachia, and officials from the Frontier Group of Companies, which owns Brown’s Island and much of the former steel-making property in Weirton, said this will be the largest such operation in West Virginia.

We are used to coal, steel and other heavy manufacturing, so “green energy” might seem out of place for many. We should see it as an opportunity, though.

It’s an investment which will bring new jobs, new tax revenue and new growth. It’s also an opportunity to attract other businesses, whether they have a connection to solar energy or other industries.

It’s an opportunity to continue the effort to diversify our economy, instead of putting all of our eggs in one basket as has been done in the past.

The days of large-scale steel manufacturing in our area are gone. We need to create an environment for new businesses to provide jobs for the future, and that is exactly what has been happening with the development of the Weirton Area Reuse Plan and the marketing of the thousands of acres owned by the Frontier Group.

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