Lebanon considering $14 million solar array to diversify electricity sources

Lebanon may turn undevelopable city-owned land in a flood plain into a $14 million, 10.1 megawatt solar panel farm with three arrays near its Glosser Road substation.

City officials said the 35-year project estimates a return on investment after 10 years and will diversify its electricity sources. The city owns and operates its own electric distribution network and is a member of the AMP-Ohio network.

During a Lebanon City Council work session last week, representatives from Kokosing Solar gave a presentation on the feasibility study it recently conducted for the city.

Gary Leckonby, a project development manager for Kokosing Solar, said the company designed the solar arrays to stay out of the “regulatory floodway”, measuring the effects of a 100-year flood at each location to know the limits of where they can install solar.

“Solar generation presents a good opportunity for this land that may not otherwise be used,” said Geoff Greenfield, Kokosing Solar’s director of solar strategy.

Leckonby’s firm recommended the city build and own its own fixed-tilt solar arrays, which is projected to cost about $14 million. Representatives noted that a federal program would pay the city about 30% of the cost, or more than $4.8 million, which would bring the cost down to $9.15 million.

If the city does not directly purchase the solar array, it would not be eligible for the federal direct-pay program. Kokosing Solar also estimated cost savings at $26.9 million over the 35-year lifespan of the arrays.

Leckonby said solar generation is a long-term hedge that diversifies the city’s energy portfolio with zero fuel-cost volatility.

“Solar is a differentiator for the community,” he said.

City Manager Scott Brunka told council that city staff recommends moving forward with the project. He said the city would have to get approval from the Planning Commission, as solar arrays are a conditional use. He said he expects the request on the July agenda of the Planning Commission.

“We’ve looked at this for years,” Brunka said. “It’s a low-risk investment opportunity that diversifies energy sources. It will provide 3-4% of the city’s annual energy needs and it’s a good use of undevelopable land that will bring economic development opportunities.”

Council will review this proposal in the coming months and agreed the city staff should move forward with its work.

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