JUST IN: Application filed with state for Greene County solar project

There will be an official application filed today with the Ohio Power Siting Board for a large-scale solar project in Greene County.

Texas-based Vesper Energy, formerly known as Lendlease, has plans to develop more than 1,500 acres of farmland in Miami Twp., Xenia Twp. and Cedarville Twp. into a solar farm. Vesper Energy plans to call the development Kingwood Solar Farm.

The project would run along Clifton Road and Wilberforce-Clifton Road near John Bryan State Park and Glen Helen Nature Preserve. Vesper Energy has secured long-term leases with 17 land owners in that area.

Greene County commissioners earlier this month held a town hall to hear residents’ thoughts on the potential solar project. Those in attendance were overwhelmingly against the project coming to Greene County.

Several residents spoke who said they would be surrounded on several sides by panels and didn’t want that to be their view. Many also spoke about the reasons they chose to move to the area. Residents also expressed concerns about how solar panels could affect wildlife, drainage and the impact on the soil and water tables. According to the Utility Scale Solar Energy Coalition of Ohio, a pro-solar organization, solar farms don’t cause air pollution, water pollution and there are no chemical emissions. As part of the siting process, Vesper must conduct environmental assessments on how their development would impact the area.

Some who spoke said the proposed project has caused division in the community between landowners who signed a lease and those who did not.

The certificate application to be filed today includes several hundred pages of documents and various plans, surveys, studies and reports pertaining to the development work the Vesper team has conducted on this project, according to spokesperson Daniel van Hoogstraten.

“This is a significant step for Kingwood Solar, and will be the start of a long, transparent, and collaborative process that follows on the many months of community outreach and education,” van Hoogstraten said in an emailed statement.

van Hoogstraten said Kingwood Solar will provide $1.5 million annually to local communities in Greene County, with the largest contribution benefiting local schools. The project will support hundreds of Ohio jobs during construction, as well as on-going operations and maintenance jobs, local contractors, and sustained revenues for our community and the state.

Vesper representatives previously told Greene County commissioners the project would create about 300 construction jobs and five permanent jobs. All the electricity would be distributed locally and the power would be sold wholesale.

There are about 25 Ohio solar projects pending or in the pre-application phase with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), which is the body that approves these large energy projects. These projects are in various stages of development across the state. About 10 projects have been approved and a few are currently in construction.

The OPSB holds a public hearing and then a more formal hearing on all proposed projects. Applicants must notify neighbors in the surrounding area they intend to apply and hold an informational meeting.

A local government can intervene during the preapplication stage. Once the application is complete, the OPSB conducts an investigation of the project which includes site visits. The whole process takes about nine months to a year.

Miami Twp. trustees on Feb. 1 passed a resolution stating they plan to intervene in the Ohio Power Siting Board process for the Greene County project. Tecumseh Land Trust also has plans to intervene.

Greene County commissioners have obtained outside legal counsel, Thaddeus Boggs of Frost Brown Todd law firm, to help them potentially intervene in the process.

“Commissioners are looking forward to reviewing the application so they can see the details related to the project,” said Greene County Administrator Brandon Huddleson. “Our hope is the application will contain the detailed information related to site design, screening, environmental and wildlife protection, property value concerns and a host of other questions that have been asked by the citizens and public officials. We understand the application will consist of hundreds of pages of information that will take some time to review.”

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