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Mike Solida, of Charles J. Merlo Inc. in Mineral Point, operates machinery to improve the access lane off Frankstown Road for construction of a new solar farm in Portage and Summerhill townships on Thursday, May 27, 2021.

PORTAGE, Pa. – A company with Cambria County ties has a buyer for the energy produced next year at its planned 127-megawatt solar farm.

Maple Hill is now being built on a reclaimed coal mine site in Portage Township – a task that will employ approximately 250 workers during peak construction, a CPV spokesman told The Tribune-Democrat on Thursday.

Once the solar facility goes into operation in the summer of 2022, it will provide power to a Schuylkill County aluminum extrusion facility owned by Hydro, a Norway-based company that is well-known in the field.

“CPV is pleased to be partnering with an international leader in the aluminum and energy industries, and we look forward to bolstering their renewable energy pipeline,” said CPV Executive Vice President Sean Finnerty. “Leveraging Maple Hill – built on a former coal mine – to power a world-leading extrusion facility is a fantastic example of how clean energy can dovetail with responsible economic growth and development.”

CPV already operates a natural gas-fired power plant in Vinco, making the solar facility its second investment in Cambria County.

Hydro Cressona, the name of the aluminum product manufacturing site, employs 1,100 workers – and the Portage farm’s 237,000 solar panels will be relied on, in part, to power the facility, CPV said in a release to media.

Finnerty said CPV’s purchase agreement with Hydro is the first long-term energy contract signed by Hydro in the U.S.

The company recently announced plans to invest $48.3 million in Cressona, Schuylkill County, to support its growing North American transportation, distribution and industrial market segments.

“The clean, locally-generated energy from CPV’s Maple Hill site makes it an ideal facility to support our investments and world-leading capabilities in Cressona,” said Mike Hammer, senior director of operations at Hydro Cressona. “Utilizing a renewable energy provider like CPV in the production of our aluminum products is the perfect complement for Hydro’s sustainability goals, and we’re excited to be the first site in North America to take this step.”

Industry-scale solar power generation is new to the region but part of a growing, “green” trend nationwide.

A record-setting 19.2 gigawatts of solar generation was installed last year across the United States.

That is the the equivalent of 43% of the combined new power generation from all sectors in 2020, according to a report commissioned by trade group Solar Energy Industries Association.

In March, the U.K.-based global energy research firm Wood McKenzie forecasted that the U.S. solar industry will install 324 gigawatts of new solar farms over the next decade – a total that would quadruple the current offering.

Just one gigawatt can power at least 300,000 homes, according to industry estimates. 

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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