LIMA — The state of Ohio’s regulatory body overseeing energy-related installations began hearings Wednesday concerning a significant solar energy project that has been the subject of much discussion and debate for nearly two years.
The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) began hearings today in Columbus over the proposed Birch Solar I project, which, if approved, would create a 300-megawatt solar farm covering over 1,400 acres in Allen and Auglaize counties. While many residents in that area expressed concerns over the potential development of that facility, concerns echoed by the boards of commissioners in both affected counties, some of that debate seems to have dissipated in the days leading up to these hearings. Last week, the Auglaize County Board of Commissioners said that it would no longer serve as an intervenor after drainage and other issues had been addressed, while Allen County Commissioners entered into an MOU with the applicant saying the two entities would work on a drainage and road use maintenance agreement should the OPSB approve the project. Earlier this week, Against Birch Solar (ABS), a group formed to voice concerns about the project, announced that it will not contest the project with the OPSB.
“Against Birch Solar has entered into a confidential agreement and has withdrawn its status as an intervening party with the Ohio Power Siting Board,” the group said in a statement. “This decision came neither quickly nor easily and only after much thought, consideration, discussion and a considerable amount of prayer. It is our hope that over time our neighbors here locally, and others throughout Ohio, will continue to witness the fruits of our labor.”
Allen-Auglaize Coalition for Reasonable Energy, a group advocating for the project, cheered the announcement in a statement released Tuesday, saying this project will not only provide renewable energy, but it will also benefit the larger community thanks to the tax revenue this project will create, with local unions providing the labor force to build the facility, with that tax revenue providing a new source of income to school districts in that area.
“Birch Solar will be a tremendous addition to Shawnee and Logan townships and we will continue to encourage the Ohio Power Siting Board to approve the construction permit so that the benefits can begin to flow as quickly as possible,” Coalition Manager Michael Wildermuth said in a statement. “Lightsource bp has proven itself to be a good community partner and now, with no local opposition remaining to the project, the Power Siting Board should stand with our local landowners, workers, and residents by saying ‘Yes’ to Birch Solar 1.”
The OPSB has hearings on this project scheduled through Tuesday.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0391 or on Twitter @cmkelly419.