YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The solar power boom that has been underway for several years in western Ohio is finally making inroads into the eastern half of the state – including a proposed solar farm in Columbiana County.
The inequity of utility-scale solar panel arrays – which are defined as 50 megawatts of capacity or more – in Ohio is stark. Draw a line down the middle of the state, from Erie County in the north, to Lawrence County in the south. To the west, there are 14 utility-scale solar farms in operation, plus another one under construction and 25 in the preconstruction phase. There are also 15 pending applications for new ones.
To the east of the line, there are no operational solar farms and none under construction.
But now, there are two applications currently before the Ohio Power Siting Board. One is in rural Franklin Township, in western Columbiana County, near Summitville. The other is in southern Harrison County, about 10 miles southwest of Cadiz.
The Summitville project is being developed by Kensington Solar, which is part of Liberty Utilities, a subsidiary of Algonquin Power of Toronto, Canada. Development of the project, which is still in the land acquisition phase, began in 2020. Kensington expects to begin construction in 2023, with the plant going online in the latter part of that year.
Jane Harf, executive director of the nonprofit Green Energy Ohio, couldn’t give a good reason for the slowness of the industry to spread across the state but suspects the availability of suitable land, usually farmland, is a factor. Northeastern Ohio is notoriously cloudy, but Harf said that is not an issue. Solar panels still collect energy on overcast days – just not as much.
The Columbiana County project will produce up to 145 megawatts of alternating current, and up to 171 megawatts of direct current, according to Kensington’s application. It sprawls over 2,264 acres on dozens of privately-owned land parcels from which Kensington has – or soon will – secure 40-year leases with the owners.
The site is adjacent to the village of Summitville and is bisected north to south by state Route 644. It is roughly bounded by Columbiana County Route 844 to the north, Summitville’s eastern boundary to the east, the Columbiana County-Carroll County border to the south, and the Columbiana County-Stark County border to the west. The solar power panels and infrastructure will occupy half of the project area, with the rest remaining natural.
Stephanie Bose, director of communications for Liberty Utilities, said the Franklin Township site was selected after a careful evaluation revealed it met the company’s standards for community impact, ability to connect to the local power grid, and state-level support for renewable energy.
“Columbiana County has an official Appalachia designation of being economically challenged,” Bose said in an email. “A solar project brings economic benefit to the county and the local community, such as tax payments.”
Bose said many jobs will be created by using …….