Kingwood Solar is located within 300 feet of 4-H Camp Clifton, and within five miles of Clifton Gorge, Clifton Mill, and John Bryan State Park.
The commissioners added that property rights of the landowners involved played a part in their decision. Kingwood Solar acquired long-term leases from at least 17 area landowners to build the solar farm on their property.
“We have property owners on both sides saying ‘you shouldn’t tell me that I can’t lease this,’ and you have other property owners saying ‘hey, it’s my property and it’s getting challenged or damaged by what you’re doing on yours.’” Commissioner Rick Perales said. “I could argue either side of this. I tried to even it out, make sure the facts were out there.”
Perales added that he believed there was still an opportunity for compromise between the parties involved.
“I believe there is still an opportunity there to give to both sides a little bit and bring this thing a little bit closer,” Perales said. “I will support this project and work with my colleagues to make the best out of it.”
Jane Sweet, a landowner who has leased part of her farm to Kingwood, views the solar utility as a way to preserve the farmland for the future, and spoke in favor of the solar facility at the commissioners meeting Thursday.
“All this land, 50 years ago, used to be farmland. Farmers have to sell off, it’s nothing new. My daughter and her family, they’ll be taking over after I kick off.”
Though the commissioners have no power to approve or deny the project, the Ohio Power Siting Board has previously said it would take the commissioners’ position into account, based on the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 52. The bill, which gives local governments a say in utility-scale renewable energy development, went into effect Oct. 11. Kingwood is exempt from new Ohio Senate Bill 52 controls because its application and impact study had been completed earlier, according to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
Kingwood Solar, owned by Texas-based Vesper Energy, is a 175-megawatt solar array operation expected to generate approximately 360,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year. Kingwood seeks to build the facility in Greene County because of its ideal sunlight conditions for solar development, land availability, and proximity to the electric grid.
Ohio Power Siting Board staff are expected to make a recommendation, which includes the commissioners’ input, by the end of this week. The next public hearing for Kingwood Solar is Nov. 15.