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Cambria County Solar Farm Update

A 480-acre solar farm coming to Cambria County this year will be “larger than any solar facility presently operating in Pennsylvania” when completed.

The Maple Hill Solar Farm is coming to Portage this summer — employing 250 to 300 workers during peak construction according to Gemma Power Systems.

But there is some controversy over the hiring process for those jobs.

Gemma Power Systems hired HardHat Workforce Solutions to set up shop at the PA CareerLink Job Fair this week in Downtown Johnstown.

Josh Bean, Senior Operations Manager with HardHat, said it’s in the hopes of finding workers for the Maple Hill Solar project.

“It’s a very entry level position. It can be somebody coming from working in retail or the food industry, and can be quickly cross trained into the installation of solar,”

But local union workers who have been trying to become part of project talks for the last two years are upset.

Union members say they have the local, skilled, trained workers needed to get the job done right.

Shawn Steffee, President of the South-Central Building Trades Labor Council, calls Gemma’s hiring methods a “slap in the face.”

“We don’t need a job fair,”

A handful of union workers protested outside of the job fair Tuesday afternoon.

“We have members that are capable and willing right now in our organized labor unions that can build that solar farm from the beginning to the end.”

Hired workers can make between 16 and 18 dollars an hour.

Steffee said they should be offered “prevailing wages” to work what Governor Wolf calls the “jobs of the future.”

“It’s a no brainer for me. This is not what we should be promoting, $16 an hour, to build our next part of energy infrastructure in Pennsylvania. We do not feel that that is a family sustaining wage,”

Steffee said the dirt work has already started on this project.

The facility is expected to begin generating electricity by July of 2022, according to Gemma’s website.

“We have skilled tradesmen, electricians, laborers, and carpenters that could build this solar farm. They’re local people that live in Cambria County and the surrounding counties,”

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