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Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions and their answers. If you don’t see your question here, please reach out to us.

General

Montour Solar One is a solar project that will provide cost-effective renewable energy to the region. Developed jointly by Pattern Energy and Talen Energy, the solar facility will provide benefits that will last generations.

 

The project will be located in Montour and Columbia counties, PA, on land primarily owned by Talen Energy. The facility will be adjacent to Talen’s Montour Steam Electric Station. It is independent from the Station and will have no impact on its operations.

 

Montour Solar One is being designed as a 100 MW facility that will provide safe, affordable, renewable electricity equal to the needs of more than 55,000 Americans.

Pattern Energy is one of the world’s leading renewable energy generation, transmission, and energy storage companies, with operating and development footprints in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Japan.

 

Headquartered in the United States, our global portfolio includes more than 30 utility-scale renewable power facilities and transmission assets. Our facilities serve a diverse range of customers who provide low-cost energy to millions of consumers.

Headquartered in the United States, our global portfolio includes more than 30 utility-scale renewable power facilities and transmission assets. Our facilities serve a diverse range of customers who provide low-cost energy to millions of consumers. Pattern’s leadership and core management have worked together for more than 15 years, uniting deep industry knowledge with investment expertise.

Talen Energy is one of the largest competitive power generation and infrastructure companies in North America. Talen owns and/or controls approximately 13,000 megawatts of generating capacity in wholesale U.S. power markets, principally in the Mid-Atlantic, Texas and Montana.

 

Talen is developing a large-scale portfolio of renewable energy, battery storage and digital infrastructure assets across its footprint. Our goal is to lead the energy transition through our Force For Good Platform, which will create opportunities for our people and communities as we decarbonize our fleet.

Talen Energy operates 18 generation facilities across 6 states, which produce approximately 13,000 megawatts of electricity. Talen’s plants have long-term connections with their communities and their facilities receive industry-leading performance rankings, from operations to safety and commercial management.

The Montour Solar team strives to find ways to expand benefits for the communities where we operate, prioritizing relationship-building and open communication above all else. We aim to engage local communities, address and incorporate feedback, and further local benefits.

 

We believe in giving back to the communities that host our development projects and operational facilities. We contribute to local causes through sponsorships and donations throughout all project phases, and we implement Community Benefit Programs at operational facilities.

 

Montour Solar One is being designed as a 100 MW facility and represents a projected investment of $100 million in Montour County and its surrounding area that will provide continuing revenue to local communities. Throughout development, construction, and operations, residents can expect to see widespread direct and indirect job creation and economic investment.

Construction of the solar project will inject millions of dollars into the economy while utilizing local materials and creating local jobs. During the construction period, it is estimated that the solar project will result in 100-150 construction jobs, including heavy equipment operators, electricians, laborers, and others. The construction and operation phases will create increased earnings for the area as well as increased demand for local vendors and services, including lodging, food services, gas, groceries, and others.

Yes! The Montour Solar team, and our contractors take our commitments to the local communities where we build our projects very seriously. We will actively pursue local vendors and job seekers during development and engage interested companies and workers. We will keep a list of interested applicants and vendors during project development to share with the engineering, procurement, and construction company that is selected to hire subcontractors for construction.

We began developing the project in 2019. The development period (before construction of the solar farm) includes many important, necessary steps including obtaining options for land easements, collecting meteorological data, performing environmental studies, and obtaining permits, to name a few. This can typically take anywhere from two to five years. Depending on factors such as seasonal conditions and final project size and design. Construction is expected to last between one to two years.

We use a standard form of lease option and we reimburse attorney fees for landowners to be able to make sure they have had appropriate legal guidance and representation before signing an option agreement.

Solar facilities typically operate for 35 to 40 years. Upon expiration of the leases and after the productive life of the panels, the facilities will be decommissioned and the land can be returned to its initial state for future use.

Construction

We strive to minimize impacts to the land during construction to the greatest extent possible. Most of the impacts during construction are temporary and will be restored upon completion of construction. We will work with farmers to minimize impact to crops, grazing, and other farming operations. We will utilize a common technology whereby steel posts are driven directly into the ground. At the end of the facility’s useful life, the posts are pulled out and the land is restored to its original condition.

 

While some grading may be required in certain project areas, the project will not require large-scale timber removal, nor will it require grading of the entire site. The project will utilize a “light on land” approach during construction and operations and will encourage native grasses to grow within the project footprint after construction to provide erosion control and limit dirt and dust from settling on the solar panels.

No. The installation affects only the top 10 feet of soil and will not result in any extreme vibrations in the soil. Therefore, damage to home foundations, water wells, underground piping, or other improvements is neither expected nor likely. Montour Solar One and its contractors will work with nearby homeowners to mitigate disruption during construction activities.

During construction there will be additional traffic in the area as construction will require heavy equipment, which could include bulldozers, graders, trenching machines, concrete trucks, flatbed trucks, and large cranes. Once construction of the solar facility is complete and the project is operational, traffic will return to its preconstruction levels.

All public roads that are expected to be utilized during construction are documented and analyzed to capture the existing condition of the roadways before commencing construction activities. All public roads impacted by the construction of the project will be returned to the same or better condition after construction activities. This arrangement is typically documented and memorialized through a Public Road Use Agreement with the local road engineers.

Concrete will be used at the project substation, to be used as an equipment pad for the main transformer and as the foundation for the substation control building. The site for the PV array may include limited areas of concrete depending on final design.

Yes, Montour solar is contractually bonded through our lease agreement to decommission the project at the end of the operations period. Decommissioning will include the removal of the infrastructure and activities for land restoration.

Aesthetic/Environmental

Solar panels are typically mounted about 4 to 5 feet off the ground and have a maximum height of 15 feet. Panels will be set back from roads and residences and utilize non-reflecting glass. So, although the project may be visible from adjacent and nearby roads, the overall visual impact will be minimized.

The project will make commercially reasonable efforts to provide screening that is also compatible with any local requirements.

Lighting guidelines will be incorporated into the project design while still meeting the requirements of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Illumination Engineering Society of North America. There will also be low-level ground lighting within the project substation and utility switchyard, which will only be on during abnormal periods of operations or maintenance at night. These lights will normally be off. There will be low-level lights at the perimeter of the project substation control building and utility switchyard entrance that will normally be on for security purposes.

The fences are traditional chain-link design, minimum 6 feet in height and topped with security measures. The fences are not meant to allow animals larger than a squirrel to pass.

The project will avoid major impacts to streams and wetlands and maintain the topsoil of the existing land to the maximum extent possible. Additionally, prior to project construction and operations of the facility, personnel will receive Environmental Awareness Training to make them aware of any potential environmental issues that might require attention during the construction and operation of the facility.

Solar panels do not discharge hazardous materials into the soil, air or water under normal operating conditions.

 

Montour Solar One is designed to minimize adverse impacts to local watersheds in accordance with PA DEP and local requirements. A National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit that regulates erosion, sedimentation and stormwater associated with the project’s construction activities will be obtained prior to construction.

Water usage of the project will be small, mostly for dust control during construction. One of the great aspects of central PA is the ample amount of annual rainfall that the area receives. Rain is a wonderful solar panel cleaning agent, and we do not anticipate needing to wash the solar panels often.

The solar project is compatible with other land uses, although the land on which the project is sited will be exclusively used for the solar facility during construction and operations. The solar facility will be sited on agricultural fields currently growing regional crops, including corn and soybeans, and will provide landowners with stable, weather-resistant cash flow through lease payments. After the end of the operations period, the solar project will be decommissioned and the land will be returned to its initial state, with minimal impact on current land use.

As with all utility-scale solar facilities in the U.S., the project will undergo extensive studies and approval processes through local, state, and federal channels regarding natural resources, habitat conservation, and wildlife impacts. Through careful site selection and thoughtful project design, impacts to the land and nearby wildlife can be mitigated or entirely avoided.

Technology, Material, and Safety

A solar facility is comprised of solar panels mounted on posts with tracking systems that allow the panels to tilt to adjust to follow the changing directions of the sun. Installations will also have a substation which helps facilitate the transmission of power to the grid.

At a basic level, solar panels include glass, metal, solar cells, glue, and an electrical junction box. If you are interested in the detailed composition, we can provide more details from solar panel manufacturers.

When sunlight reaches a solar panel, the electrons in the solar panel’s semiconductor material become energized and create an electric current.

The facility will be monitored on-site by the operations and maintenance staff and remotely by an operations center that is staffed 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Solar panels are durable and designed to last for 35 to 40 years. However, from time to time panels may stop working. Because the project depends on the electricity each panel produces, any issue would be addressed quickly.

Solar energy is one of the safest forms of power generation available. The sun provides a tremendous resource for generating clean and sustainable electricity without toxic pollution or global warming emissions. Montour Solar One will use silicon-based PV panels, which are made of safe, well-tested materials commonly used in other building and household products.

All modern humans are exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMF) every day and there is no negative health impact from the EMF produced in a solar facility.

 

All electrical and electronic devices create electromagnetic fields, but the amount emitted by a solar project to the public is less than a typical household fixture. For example, a typical household fixture such as a fluorescent lightbulb can generate about 50 V/m at a distance of one foot. At a distance of 1 inch from the power cord for an operating personal computer, 40 V/m are detected. A study conducted by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center at three utility scale sites, revealed that electric field levels along the fenced PV array boundary, and at locations set back 50 to 150 feet from the boundary, were not elevated above background levels (< 5 V/m). Electric fields near the inverters were also not elevated above background levels (< 5 V/m).

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) has conducted several studies which demonstrated that the noise levels generated by inverters and tracking motors are not audible above ambient noise at the fence line of the facility. Solar panels themselves are 100% silent.

Fencing will be Installed around the perimeter and signs will be posted to keep the area secure. Additionally, our facilities are monitored from an Operations and Control Center 24/7, 365 days per year. We receive immediate notification for any type of fault, and a technician can be dispatched immediately to assess any situation.

The fences typically used are traditional chain-link design, minimum 6 feet in height and topped with security measures. The fences are not meant to allow animals larger than a squirrel to pass.

The solar project poses a very low risk to birds. Recent media attention has focused on heat-related bird deaths at some generating facilities, which are related to other solar technologies, such as concentrating solar, rather than the solar photovoltaic (PV panels) that will be used here.

A typical solar project is designed to withstand storm events that create strong wind, rain, and hail. If a storm damages the solar facility, the project will respond swiftly.