VOICES: Kingwood Solar is an opportunity to embrace clean energy, create jobs

Craig Carson is the President and CEO of Vesper Energy Development LLC. (CONTRIBUTED)

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Craig Carson is the President and CEO of Vesper Energy Development LLC. (CONTRIBUTED)

Editor’s Note: A response from Citizens for Greene Acres will run in Wednesday’s paper.

The energy landscape is changing in our country, and right here in Ohio, Vesper Energy is at the forefront of bringing clean, sustainable, independent, and affordable power to individuals and businesses.

We are actively building two projects in Ohio — one has been approved and is in pre-construction, and the other is Kingwood Solar, located in Greene County.

A recent poll conducted in Greene County by one of the leading pollsters in the country found that 65% of voters want to transition to clean energy. The poll validates what we already knew—Greene County residents support Kingwood Solar. In fact, the poll also shows that voters in the county support the project by a three-to-one margin, and that support is consistent across the county, with 63% support in Beavercreek, 65% in Fairborn and 72% in Xenia.

The demand for clean energy is only increasing every year with companies committing to zero carbon goals and municipalities and large energy users shifting to renewable energy. Solar energy provides the affordable, reliable energy needed to keep the lights on and provide energy security for our country.

The largest single private investment ever in the State of Ohio was announced last month, with Intel demanding 100% clean energy to meet the energy demand of its new facility. Clean energy development is attracting high-paying jobs and smart development in Ohio.

What is the alternative? There is no turning back, and Ohio has the capacity, the space, and the workforce to meet the demand.

Vesper Energy is committed to the future of clean energy here in Ohio and across the U.S. We are also committed to building best in class solar farms that produce clean, emission-free electricity—while respecting and partnering with the communities we serve.

When we proposed Kingwood Solar in Greene County, we did so with the focus of working with farmers and landowners, local workforce and sincere partnerships in the community. We have accomplished these goals.

The recent poll also found that 90% of Greene County voters believe that landowners should have the right to lease their land to whomever they want without interference from the state or local governments. We agree with Greene County voters and know our landowners — many of whom have farmed for generations — only want to protect their land and do what is in the best interest of their family and community.

Despite our efforts, we heard from the community that we needed to address concerns around the Greene County Land Use Plan Amendment that was adopted in 2021, which was years after we began our project. Irrespective, we knew it was important, so we significantly enhanced our setbacks from homes and iconic local landmarks, as well as addressed additional concerns from neighboring residents. We reduced the project by 320 acres, which is 20% of the original project area.

We contacted 81 non-participating landowners and offered to meet in-person to discuss specific concerns. We sat at people’s kitchen tables and front porches. We offered sixty-five landowners near the project monetary compensation. There are very few industries that offer “good neighbor” agreements, but we understand the importance of being a true partner in the community.

Kingwood Solar offered more than $2 million in incentives and community funds every year for 35+ years. That’s $70 million dollars. This includes creating a Community Benefit Fund in the amount of $225,000 per year, to be distributed to Miami, Cedarville, & Xenia Townships should they choose to work with Kingwood Solar to establish the fund. This new fund, totaling more than $7.8 Million over 35 years, could be used for emergency services, roads and infrastructure, and parks and recreation.

Or your county and township government could use the funds to lower your taxes. The poll also found that the two most important issues to Greene County voters are economic issues and taxes, followed closely by education.

Kingwood Solar is a long-term preservation of generational and valuable farmland, helping farmers retain their properties and leave it for generations to come.

Greene County has the opportunity to show they are looking out for the best interests of future generations, creating innovative and technologically advanced jobs in Greene County and across Ohio, and helping to decarbonize by putting clean energy on the grid.

After Kingwood Solar continually made concessions, added financial incentives, reduced the size of the project — there has been no willingness by the township, county, or small group of opposing citizens to come to the table.

Despite these obstacles, we remain committed to our farmers, clean energy development, and the future of Greene County and the State of Ohio.

Craig Carson is the President and CEO of Vesper Energy Development LLC.

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