Greene County group against solar farm want commissioners to intervene

A group of residents is asking Greene County commissioners to intervene in a potential solar project that would be built near Yellow Springs.

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 Kingwood Solar Farm would run along Clifton Road and Wilberforce-Clifton Road near John Bryan State Park. Vesper Energy has secured long-term leases with some of the land owners in that area.

Jenifer Adams, a member of the grassroots group Citizens for Greene Acres, asked commissioners to intervene in the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) process. Citizens for Greene Acres are a group of people who liver or farm near the potential site.

Governments or groups that wish to intervene in the OPSB process have 30 days from the day a company applies, Adams said. The group is asking commissioners now, so that when Vesper Energy applies, they could have time to intervene if they wanted to. Vesper Energy told Citizens for Greene Acres that they plan to start the application process in the beginning of 2021.

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“The only way for the county to make sure taxpayers are protected is to intervene,” Adams said.

Adams asked that commissioners balance the demand for renewable energy with the character and interests of rural communities these operations are proposed to go.

“The community is worried,” Adams said.

Concerned community members also met about a year ago to discuss the potential plans. At that time nothing official was on file with state or local authorities on plans by a company to build a large solar photo-voltaic array on Greene County farmland.

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Adams and other members of Citizens for Greene Acres said they were worried their soil or water would be affected by the solar project. The residents were also concerned about the agricultural economy, as the land the solar project will go on is currently land being farmed. They are also worried that the state park and nearby Glen Helen Nature Preserve will suffer because of the large solar project.

“Citizens for Greene Acres is looking to protect the community,” Adams said.

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 its OSPB certificate in April.

Vesper Energy could not be reached for comment. The company held information meetings with residents in October and November.

Commissioner Bob Glaser said he thought the county should get involved.

“This is going to be detrimental to our community, in my opinion,” Glaser said. “This whole thing is just fraught with question marks as far as I am concerned.”

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Commissioners Tom Koogler and Dick Gould said they see both sides of the argument. Koogler asked if there were any municipalities in Ohio that had intervened in this process before. Adams said she didn’t know of any, but there are several Ohio sites that are further along in the application process than the Greene County site.

“We have competing interests. We have citizens who want this and stand to gain financially from this,” said Greene County Administrator Brandon Huddleson. “The commissioners didn’t ask for this.”

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