CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY)- Gov. Jim Justice and Clearway Energy Group announced today that construction has commenced on the Black Rock Wind project; a 115-megawatt wind farm that spans Grant and Mineral counties.
“Today’s announcement is incredible and it’s been in the wings for some time,” Gov. Justice said during today’s virtual announcement. “I am a complete believer that West Virginia has to be a diversified state, and we’ve become just that. We still don’t want to forget, in any way, our coal mine jobs, our natural gas jobs, or our oil jobs and how important they are. But we have embraced our role as an all-encompassing energy state. We want to welcome alternatives, and this wind farm will absolutely amp up our wind production in this great state in a big way and will help us move forward with great jobs.”
During construction, Black Rock Wind will create at least 200 jobs and generate millions of dollars of spending in the local community.
“We’re pushing the buttons to make great things happen in West Virginia, with a great diversified economy, with tourism booming, and all the good stuff that we’ve got going on,” Gov. Justice said. “This is just another welcome announcement to all the goodness that’s happening right in West Virginia right now.
“I thank the Clearway Energy Group, I thank those working on the Black Rock wind farm, I thank Toyota, AEP, and all the different people that are making it happen,” Gov. Justice continued. “But, more than anything, I want to thank the officials of Grant and Mineral counties, and all the great people that have put in the licks, our Commerce people and others, who have made this become a reality.”
The project will have a total of 23 turbines supplied by Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and construction is being led by Reed & Reed and Bechtel Corporation.
Once Black Rock is operational, Clearway will be among the leading taxpayers in Grant and Mineral counties, with Black Rock paying $5.7 million in property taxes to the counties and $9 million in Business & Occupation taxes to the State over the life of the project. Clearway has also established the Black Rock Community Benefit Fund, which will donate $50,000 to local nonprofits every year throughout the project’s lifespan.
“Black Rock represents a significant investment in West Virginia’s energy economy,” said Craig Cornelius, CEO of Clearway. “We are excited to support good-paying jobs while making substantial investments in local businesses and the community, and we have great belief in what the future holds here. In building Black Rock, and making further investments in nearby Pinnacle wind farm, we’re making a strong commitment to West Virginia. We see a great future for renewable energy in the Mountain State’s economy, and we’re looking forward to continuing to invest to enable that growth in the years to come.”
Black Rock is expected to reach commercial operations in late 2021. Once complete, Black Rock will increase West Virginia’s wind power by 15 percent. In December, Clearway announced a joint equity transaction for a 1.6 GW portfolio that includes Black Rock.
“West Virginia continues to support the diversification of our state’s economy and we are here to support this wonderful project,” said West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Ed Gaunch. “We are delighted to see Clearway deepen its roots in the Mountain State.”
“Governor, first I want to thank you for your leadership through this pandemic that our state is going through. Thank you, also, for your leadership in the economy, growing West Virginia,” said West Virginia Delegate Ruth Rowan. “I also want to thank the people at Clearway. They have helped in growing things here locally. They give generously to Ashby’s Fort, which is encouraging tourism here in Mineral County, and they contribute to the local libraries. So they’re also not only investing in the economy now, but in the future with our children.”
This is a terrific day for West Virginia,” said Randy Crane, President of the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce. “I want to thank the Governor, Secretary Gaunch, and Delegate Rowan for their leadership in helping to make West Virginia so welcoming to everybody, from tourists to businesses across the land. I cannot adequately state what Clearway Energy has meant to Mineral County, our community, our nonprofits, and to the Chamber. Every person from Clearway has gone way out of their way to be a good neighbor and help us, beyond expectations. It’s just fun. Any time I have to deal with Clearway, it’s a good day. So I’m really grateful for just how easy it’s been to work with them and I’m really grateful to the State for doing their part to make this happen. The Chamber supports all forms of energy in West Virginia, and I believe that renewable energy is a bold step toward the future of clean energy.”
Clearway also closed $197 million in construction debt financing, for which Mizuho Bank, Ltd. acted as the coordinating lead arranger and with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), MUFG Bank, Ltd., Santander, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), each acting as mandated lead arrangers. Black Rock is contracted under long-term power purchase agreements with Toyota and AEP Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of American Electric Power. Both companies are major employers in West Virginia.
“AEP Energy is focused on providing customers with integrated, carbon-free energy supplies that deliver long-term price stability and environmental benefits. Agreements like the one with Clearway Energy Group affirm our vision and demonstrate the energy solutions we can put in place to support the development of new energy resources to boost local economies and help our customers power their homes and businesses with clean, reliable energy,” said Greg Hall, president, AEP Energy.
“Partnering with Clearway to purchase wind energy in West Virginia aligns with our commitment to renewable energy and economic growth in a region where we’ve operated for over 20 years,” said Kevin Butt, senior director of environmental sustainability for Toyota Motor North America. “Black Rock directly contributes to the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 and will help us eliminate carbon emissions from our manufacturing operations.”