Community information meeting slated for Sunday
Yard signs declaring “No Solar Farms” are popping up at numerous properties along countryside stretches of Bokescreek, Perry and Rushcreek townships as area residents are banding together to raise their concerns regarding a proposed large scale solar energy center locating on farmland in their neighborhood.
Invenergy has proposed the Fountain Point Solar Energy Center that would be situated on approximately 3,860 acres in the three townships, with a maximum total generating capacity of 280 megawatts.
The project is in its pre-application stage and like all projects over 50 megawatts, it must undergo the permitting process through the Ohio Power Siting Board. If it passes through those phases, construction could begin as early as the first quarter of 2023.
In this proposed area for solar energy center, area farmers and land owners have signed lease agreements for the company to use the land designated for this purpose.
Outside of the nearly 4,000 acres, approximately 140 homes would border the proposed solar energy center. A grassroots effort opposing the project has sprung up through some of the residents, who have attended recent township trustee meetings and Logan County commissioners open forum sessions to bring their voice to the issue.
This weekend, they are hosting an informational meeting — slated for 2 p.m. Sunday, March 13, at the Benjamin Logan High School cafeteria — and invite the community to attend.
“Our agenda for this meeting is to educate people on what is coming into the area, what it means to their property, the community as far as taxes are concerned, the pros/cons of solar, and what they can do if they oppose or welcome the project,” resident Paul Schaller said.
According to the Ohio Power Siting Board, the Fountain Point Solar Energy Center is part of a growing number of projects being proposed around the state.
While only two solar facilities are currently operational in Ohio — one in Hardin County that began operations last year, and one in Brown County — the Fountain Point Solar Energy Center is among 20 solar facilities that are currently in the pre-application or pending category, as of Feb. 25, according to www.opsb.ohio.gov.
In addition, there are 26 such approved/under construction solar facilities around the state, also of Feb. 25, including Hardin II and Hardin III in Hardin County, along with approved projects in Champaign and Union counties.
If it moves forward to operation, Fountain Point Solar would generate electricity to inject into the local transmission grid, with commercial operation anticipated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2024.
Schaller said his property along State Route 47 near West Mansfield would be surrounded on three sides by the proposed solar farm.
“I feel like there aren’t any benefits to those of who will be residing right by the solar farm. They are just sending the electricity right back into the grid,” he said.
“I like the idea of solar power and using that to provide free electricity to help those living in the area, but that is not happening here,” his neighbor Kara Slonecker said.
“Being right up against people’s properties, I don’t feel like there’s a lot of positives with that.”
In 2014, Slonecker and her family moved from Indiana to their 12-acre property along Township Road 132, which would potentially be bordered on two sides by the solar farm.
“We purposefully wanted to live here; we have a 2-acre pond and are developing a hobby farm as well. It’s where my husband and I wanted to retire and spend the rest of our years…
“I’m worried that it will affect our property values and that it will take away from our way of life out in the country.”
The “No Solar in Logan County” group, which has developed a website at www.nosolarinlc.com, noted there are other issues that they are examining relating to a large scale solar facility in the area, including the affect on farmland drainage tiles leading to flooding and loss of habitat for wildlife residing in the area. They welcome further discussion at their meeting Sunday.
Logan County Commissioner Paul Benedetti said he has received a number of correspondences from members of the “No Solar” group. He shares some of their concerns regarding certain aspects of the Fountain Point project, particularly the size and scope of the proposed solar farm, considering that 140 residents would potentially be affected bordering the site.
Benedetti noted that the location for the solar farm also could potentially conflict with the county’s upcoming planned Eastern Regional Sewage System to serve the Middleburg and East Liberty areas and accommodate the growth and development projected for the Eastern portion of the county.
Moving forward, local input will be more involved in the planning for solar and wind facilities in the state following the passing of Senate Bill 52 last year. The bill officially took effect Oct. 11, which was after Fountain Point Solar’s project already was in the Ohio Power Siting Board’s queue.
Among other things, S.B. 52 lets counties ban solar and wind facilities from all or part of their territory, gives counties and townships a seat and vote in the board’s solar or wind project cases, and holds renewable projects to a higher standard than fossil fuel infrastructure.
Invenergy anticipates filing its project application to the Ohio Power Siting Board within 90 days of its Jan. 12 Fountain Point Solar public information meeting, which was previously detailed in the Examiner.
“The Invenergy team is focused on conducting all the necessary studies and due diligence required of that process as well as working with participating landowners, community members and all appropriate officials to move the project forward,” representatives said on the project website at www.fountainpointsolar.com.
Upon receipt of the application, the OPSB will review the application and then will being its investigation.
Following the investigation, the next step in the process is the OPSB’s public hearing, which will include two parts: written or oral testimony and an ajudicatory hearing.
The Ohio Power Siting Board accepts written comments on the project from interested persons at any time, as well as written or oral testimony from any person at the public hearing. All correspondence and petitions to intervene for this project must include reference to Case No. 21-1231-EL-BGN.