Company behind rejected solar farm proposes another plan near Clark County



A year after the Ohio Power Siting Board struck down a Texas company’s plan to bring a 1,200 acre utility-scale solar farm to rural Greene County, the same company is trying again to bring another solar operation to the county.

The proposed project, titled Aviation Energy Center, will work off of an existing agreement that Vesper has with regional transmission organization PJM Interconnection, allowing for up to 175 megawatts of energy generation, Vesper Energy employees said in a presentation to Miami Twp trustees during their regular December meeting.

The actual size of the solar array has yet to be determined, said Vesper Energy’s Development Manager Hannah Larkin and Community Affairs Manager Lindsey Workman.

“Our goal for this project is to design it in collaboration with our community partners,” Larkin said.

Last December, the Ohio Power Siting Board denied a permit application for the controversial Kingwood Solar utility in Greene County, citing an “overwhelming” number of public comments that disfavored the project. Vesper has since appealed this decision.

Vesper had previously secured a number of long-term leases with local landowners in Cedarville, Miami, and Xenia Twps.

Several people spoke both in favor of and against the proposal at the meeting. Residents raised concerns about adequate setbacks from roads and natural resources, and the preservation of existing agricultural land.

“My husband and I were farmers up in Shelby County. As young farmers we financially couldn’t make a go of it,” said Theresa Borchers. “I so support anything that enables family farmers to continue to farm, and to have a steady source of income is just so valuable ... I really support this.”

Others raised questions about why solar panels couldn’t be put on rooftops or over brownfields and other already-despoiled land.

“(Solar) has never been an issue with me, and I’ve tried to make this clear that I’m not against solar, I’m against placement,” said Jim Krajicek. “Where the proper places to put this stuff is, how to implement it. Put them on rooftops. Take the government money that Vesper and all these solar companies are getting, and build materials out of these homes, these factories, the glass, the rooftops, streets, between the median strips. Take the extra money but quit giving tax money to these mega hedge funds. The only reason they’re in this is there’s money to be made.”

Vesper is “absolutely interested in exploring brownfield opportunities,” Larkin said, but such sites are often “not large enough to site really any megawattage.”

The area of Greene County Vesper wants to build on is desirable for solar development for several reasons, Vesper has previously told the Dayton Daily News: large amounts of sun, and the vast acreage available is better for supporting a utility-scale operation, and is located near a hookup to PJM’s grid, which spans 13 states regionally.

Resident Benjamin Crandall said that geographically, there are very few interconnection opportunities to connect to the electric grid, which makes it one of the most cumbersome pain points for transitioning to solar and other renewable energy sources, and thus should be prioritized. Crandall added that agricultural land in the U.S. is being disrupted far more by other industries.

“I personally don’t think the argument that we need that land for agriculture ... that’s the past. It’s not where we’re going,” he said.

The company’s contract with PJM Interconnection is very difficult to get, Larkin said, and any company wishing to start fresh in a place like Greene County would have to wait about five years to acquire one.

The Miami Twp. zoning commission is working on developing new regulations for solar power in the township, generally to “not allow solar for the purposes of selling,” zoning inspector Richard Zopf told trustees during the meeting.

A spokesperson for the Ohio Power Siting Board, which governs all projects 50 megawatts or greater, said they had not yet received an application for Aviation Energy Center.

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