NEW DETAILS: Greene County to hold town hall about giant solar project proposed

A solar array in Yellow Springs consists of 3,024 solar panels tied into the grid on about 6 and a half acres of village owned land. Texas-based Vesper Energy, formerly known as Lendlease, has plans to develop a much larger one on more than 1,200 acres of farmland in Miami Twp., Xenia Twp. and Cedarville Twp. 
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A solar array in Yellow Springs consists of 3,024 solar panels tied into the grid on about 6 and a half acres of village owned land. Texas-based Vesper Energy, formerly known as Lendlease, has plans to develop a much larger one on more than 1,200 acres of farmland in Miami Twp., Xenia Twp. and Cedarville Twp. CONTRIBUTED

Greene County commissioners will hold a town hall meeting about a large scale solar project that is proposed to come to Greene County.

The town hall will be held at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 6 at the Greene County Fairgrounds’ Assembly Hall, located at 120 Fairground Road in Xenia.

Texas-based Vesper Energy, formerly known as Lendlease, has plans to develop more than 1,200 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. Vesper Energy has secured long-term leases with about a dozen of the land owners in that area.

“This is an opportunity for the commissioners to hear all of the residents’ concerns,” said Brandon Huddleson, county administrator. “They’ve heard some, but we want to make sure everyone is heard.”

A group of residents, called Citizens for Greene Acres, has asked Greene County commissioners to intervene in the potential project. Citizens for Greene Acres is worried their soil or water would be affected by the solar project. The residents are also concerned about the agricultural economy, as the land is currently land being farmed. They are also worried the state park and nearby Glen Helen Nature Preserve will suffer because of the large solar project.

ExploreGreene County group against solar farm want commissioners to intervene

The group also questions how the solar panels will impact the environment, wildlife and people who live nearby. Local residents have expressed concerns about their property values. Citizens for Greene Acres says there is no historical data to compare how this project might pan out over time.

There are similar Vesper Energy sites in California and Texas. Vesper Energy is also operating the solar project in Brown and Clermont counties that got certified in April.

There are about 25 Ohio solar projects pending or in the pre-application phase with the Ohio Power Siting Board, which is the body that approves or denies 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.

OPSB public information officer Matt Butler said the board holds a public hearing and then a more formal hearing on all 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, Butler said.

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. Greene County commissioners have discussed getting outside legal counsel to help them intervene in the process. Huddleson said he plans to sign a contract with an attorney sometime this month.

Vesper has also asked that commissioners consider a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program, where an up front payment would be made instead of paying regular taxes on the development. Huddleson said he will recommend that commissioners not do the PILOT program.

ExploreGreene landowners concerned over potential solar farm

John Soininen, director of development for Vesper, previously told this newspaper Vesper is working on environmental and resource studies and plans to file an application in the spring. Soininen told Greene County commissioners the project would create about 300 construction jobs and five permanent jobs.

Jenifer Adams, a Greene County resident and member of Citizens for Greene Acres, is opposed to the project. Adams said an industrial-scale solar plant will impact the residents who live in the area during construction and after it is operational. Citizens for Greene Acres wants to protect and preserve green spaces in Greene County.

“We want to see our local officials doing their homework, doing their jobs, and taking an active role as interveners before the OPSB when the Kingwood project becomes official,” Adams said. “If they do not intervene, then our local land use plans and zoning regulations may be sold to the highest bidder or corporate interests.”

According to Soininen, the project would generate about $1.5 million per year for the life of the project. The project would also generate $850,000 in taxes for local schools a year, Soininen said. Soininen estimates that this would be split between Xenia Community Schools and Cedar Cliff Local Schools.

Soininen said the leases with landowners include language that states Vesper has to remove the solar panels and turn the land back to the owner “essentially in the same condition we got it in.”

ExploreMassive solar farms divide neighbors in rural areas

Nothing official is on file yet with state or local authorities for the Kingwood Solar project.

For those who aren’t able to attend the April meeting, commissioners will consider questions submitted via email at lmock@co.greene.oh.us or by mail at 35 Greene Street.

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