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Wind farm planned at Black Rock

KEYSER, W.Va. – State and local officials detailed plans Thursday for a wind energy power plant that will straddle the Mineral and Grant county line.

The proposed Black Rock Wind Farm would have a generation capacity of up to 170 megawatts and create hundreds of jobs during construction, according to a news release issued by Gov. Jim Justice’s office. The project is also expected to create “significant” new tax revenues for Mineral and Grant counties and the state of West Virginia.

“This investment is truly great news for Mineral and Grant counties and all of West Virginia,” Justice said. “My administration is committed to finding every possible way to enhance energy production in West Virginia, and the Black Rock Wind Farm is the perfect example of a project that will be a win-win in many ways.”

Justice and local officials said the project represents a private-sector investment of at least $150 million in Mineral and Grant counties.

Clearway Energy Group, which also owns the nearby Pinnacle Wind Farm in Mineral County, is the project developer.

“Clearway is already a good corporate citizen in Mineral County, and we are excited to support this planned expansion to their operations,” Mineral County Commission President Roger Leatherman said. “In addition to the jobs and economic investment it brings, the commission supports Black Rock because it will enhance revenues to the county to support our schools, first responders and social services.”

During the construction phase, Black Rock is expected to create 290 jobs, representing approximately $14 million in labor income payroll and $44 million in regional economic output, officials said.

“The Black Rock Wind Farm is an exciting opportunity for Grant County because it will bring new jobs and expand our tax base,” said Grant County Commission President Douglas E. Swick.

Additional local jobs will be created to staff the plant, which will be supplemented with contractor services provided by area businesses.

“We’ve had some challenging economic news recently in the Potomac Valley, and Black Rock represents a sign of hope for the future at a time when we need it most,” Del. Gary Howell said. “I support this project, and I will be requesting that our local residents – including those furloughed from the Luke Paper Mill – be considered for employment in the construction and operation of Black Rock.”

Justice said that during construction the wind farm is expected to generate at least $4.8 million in state and local taxes, with a further $12 million over its first 25 years in operation.

Clearway also operates the Lookout and Forward wind farms in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and is one of Mineral County’s largest taxpayers.

Pinnacle has established a Community Benefit Fund overseen by residents that has contributed $191,000 to date toward “brick-and-mortar” projects and nonprofit organizations since 2013. A similar fund will be created for the Black Rock project.

“We are grateful for the support of Governor Justice and all of the local leaders who recognize our recent submittal of Black Rock’s Siting Certificate Application with the West Virginia Public Service Commission,” said Craig Cornelius, CEO of Clearway Energy Group. “Given the success of Clearway’s existing Pinnacle Wind Farm next door and the relationships we’ve been able to build with surrounding communities, we’re excited to expand our footprint and bring even more local jobs and economic opportunity to the Mountain State.”

Clearway expects to start construction on Black Rock next year, with commercial operations beginning in 2021.