Champaign County solar project moves ahead despite tax abatement rejection

The Champaign County Commission rejected a proposal for a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program for a 144-watt solar-powered generating facility expected for Adams Twp., but company representatives said they are moving forward with the project regardless of the tax abatement.

The project calls for solar panels on more than 1,000 acres in northwest Champaign County.

The commission on Oct. 13 voted 2-1 to deny an application from Open Road Renewables, the company behind the Clearview Solar project, for the tax abatement.

The PILOT would have allowed the solar company to make payments to the county in lieu of public utility personal property taxes and real property taxes for 40 years, according to the Champaign County Commission.

The PILOT program was through the Ohio Qualified Energy Project Tax Exemption program. It had proposed a payment of $7,000 per megawatt generated per year to taxing jurisdictions where Clearwater will be located. An additional $2,000 per megawatt per year was to be paid to the county’s general fund, according to Open Road Renewables vice president Doug Herling.

The company also agreed to pay “make-whole” payments totaling $1.8 million to taxing entities that would receive less through the PILOT program, according to Herling.

Projects above 20 megawatts require approval from each Board of County Commissioners in which the project is located, according to the Ohio Department of Development.

Champaign County commissioner Bob Corbett said the commission received a letter from the Ohio Department of Development on Oct. 12 that requested the commission pass a resolution to reject or approve the PILOT program for the solar company.

The decision to reject the PILOT program was influenced by the proposal off a flat rate of dollars per megawatt generated, not accounting for inflation in its 40-year span, Corbett said.

Herling said the project will move forward “with or without” the PILOT program.

Over 40 years, Clearview was expected to pay $51.8 million under the PILOT. It’s now expected to pay $42.5 million in public utility personal property taxes and real property taxes during the same time period, according to Daniel van Hoogstraten, a spokesperson of Open Road Renewables.

The Ohio Power Siting Board approved the Clearview Solar project last fall.

It is expected to occupy roughly 1,075 acres on a 1,195-acre project area consisting “of private land secured by the applicant through agreements with the landowners,” according to Ohio Power Siting Board records.

It will be in the northwest corner of Adams Twp., approximately 2 miles northwest of Rosewood. It will supply wholesale power to an existing transmission line owned and operated by Dayton Power and Light. The power will be delivered at a location adjacent to Champaign-Logan Road between State Route 235 and Snapptown Road, according to the Ohio Power Siting Board.

The solar company is expected to begin construction on the facility next spring, the company confirmed. The solar project will not only construct the solar panels, but also infrastructure such as access roads, electric collection lines, inverters, weather stations and a substation.

Herling said the PILOT decision “came as a surprise” to his team.

“It appears there’s more work to be done, and we’ll continue engaging with the commissioners to further understand their concerns, present solutions, and ensure that the local community realizes the full financial benefits of the project,” Herling said.

By the Numbers:

40: Number of years proposed for the Clearview Solar PILOT project

144: Number of megawatts proposed for the Clearview solar-powered generating facility

1195: Number of acres taken up by the solar project

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