A Fayette County Board of Appeals meeting is being held next week in reference to a company (National Grid Renewable) wanting to create a solar farm in Perry Township.
According to National Grid Renewables Director of Marketing and Communications Lindsay Smith, “Fayette Solar is an estimated 47.5 megawatt (MW) solar energy development in Perry Township that is currently anticipated to connect to the electric grid via the existing Greenfield Substation in Madison Township (in Highland County).”
Fayette County Zoning Official Greg McCune explained the farm would be located on 435 acres of land. The acres proposed for the solar farm are currently taxed as agricultural land, according to Fayette County Commissioner Jim Garland.
Essentially, a solar farm is an area typically consisting of multiple acres of land that tends to use ground-mounted solar panels (which are photovoltaic panels, also known as PV panels). Due to the amount of land needed for these farms, they are commonly found in rural locations.
If the company is able to create the solar farm within Fayette County, the commissioners explained the ground-mounted panels can be a maximum of 15 feet off the ground as that is the usual height maximum the company follows.
Solar farms, such as the one potentially going into Fayette County, can connect directly into the local power grid. Garland said the power lines would be located underground.
According to www.solarreviews.com, the cost to install and operate solar farms is much cheaper than the cost to install and operate residential roof-top solar power.
The website further explains that while a solar farm can be built within months depending on the size of the project and number of people constructing it, the approvals and contracts needed to complete the farm can take several years. Once the farm is constructed, it needs little maintenance and can be serviced 3-4 times per year meaning there will be low traffic in the area.
Smith explained the estimated timeline for the local project is to start construction in 2022 and begin operation by the end of the year.
County commissioners said the traffic in the local area surrounding the farm may lessen from what it is now as there won’t be agricultural traffic.
Several sources agree that solar farms have low pollution and are relatively quiet as there are no moving parts or constant workers in the area. The farms tend to be safe for wildlife.
Outside of the local area, in recent years there have been several new solar farms coming into operation or being planned.
A new project set to create the largest solar farm in the country is in the works. This project is called the “Gemini Project” and is planned to be located on approximately 7,100 acres of federal land about 25 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada, according to www.geminisolarnv.com/overview.
The Gemini Project is expected to generate enough solar energy to cover 400,000 homes per year, “displacing approximately one and a half million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually — the equivalent of taking about 290,000 cars off the road,” explains the website.
As Gemini Project is not built yet, the largest solar farm in the US at this time is Solar Star which is two distinct projects, according to ww2.energy.ca.gov. Solar Star 1 and Solar Star 2 are co-located in Kern and LA counties in California on a total of 3,230 acres with 1.7 million solar panels. Solar Star launched in 2015 as the largest solar farm in the world but has since lost that honor.
During construction of Solar Star in 2015, the project created about 650 jobs and is now estimated to generate more than $500 million in regional economic impact, according to www.bherenewables.com/solarstar_solar.aspx. It is able to power approximately 255,000 average California households and displaces approximately 561,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year (which is nearly 106,000 cars worth of pollution annually).
While the solar farm that may be built locally won’t be able to have those high numbers, it will make an impact.
Smith explained via email, “The project is anticipated to positively impact the local economy by producing significant tax revenue, short and long term jobs, and annual contributions through a charitable fund. Current estimates (based on current state tax law and subject to change) for tax revenue produced by the project suggest an approximate $8 million boost in revenue to the local area over the first 25 years of project operation. Additionally, Fayette Solar is estimated to offset approximately 64,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually during operations — the equivalent of taking an estimated 14,000 cars off the road every year (based on EPA greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator).”
“It would be a significant amount of money that would come to the county if they come in,” said commissioner Dan Dean. “The biggest part of it would go to Miami Trace Schools because of property tax.”
Commissioner Tony Anderson explained, “From a commissioner’s standpoint, we have to accept and agree that with the tremendous increase in a demand for green energy, that the people that have been in charge of writing up these rules (regulations and codes) have interests in competing for green energy and conservation of the environment. If those who believe in the idea of green energy believe it is beneficial for the environment, we have to believe that collection of green energy through a solar farm or wind turbine is better for the environment. We don’t make those rules, the legislature passed the rules.”
Anderson further explained that wanting clean energy and having it locally is a sign of economic success.
According to the company website, www.nationalgridrenewables.com, “Under Ohio Law, electric generating facilities capable of producing 50 MW or more must apply for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need from the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB). This process provides for a single unified process by which facilities can obtain a certificate to operate. Generally speaking, the OPSB process includes a public informational meeting, submittal of certificate application, 60-day staff completeness review, application acceptance, OPSB Staff Review and Recommendation, public hearing, adjudicatory hearing, and certificate issuance/denial.”
Dean said, “They are not obtrusive, and usually they are all well-maintained as far as the landscape and the plants that are put in there — they use native plants. I don’t personally see a big issue with it, but those that have issues (with the solar farm coming to Fayette County) need to come (to the meeting) to ask questions of the company so that they feel comfortable themselves.”
The board of appeals meeting is open to the public and will be held on Monday at 7 p.m. at the Union Township building, located at 1505 Old State Route 38 N.E., Washington C.H. Those who come need to sign in and will be asked to say their names when speaking for record, as is typical of official meetings. COVID guidelines, including wearing a mask, should be followed.
National Grid Renewables, according to its website, “includes the renewables development company formerly known as Geronimo Energy, is a leading North American renewable energy company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with satellite offices located in the regions where it develops, constructs, and operates renewable energy projects. As a farmer-friendly and community focused company, National Grid Renewables develops projects for corporations and utilities that seek to repower America’s electricity grid by reigniting local economies and reinvesting in a sustainable future. National Grid Renewables is part of the competitive, unregulated Ventures division of National Grid and has a portfolio of solar, wind, and energy storage projects located throughout the United States in various stages of development, construction and operation.”
Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.