The Evening Leader

Government opposition has weight with OPSB


Senior Siting Specialist James O’Dell has filed testimony on behalf of the Ohio Power Siting Board staff ahead of a May 18 evidentiar­y hearing with concern for the public outcry regarding the Birch Solar Project.

The OPSB staff report originally found the applicant failed to establish the nature of the project’s probable impact on cultural resources and the location of abandoned oil and gas wells. While those issues have been rectified, they have failed to establish whether the facility would serve the public interest convenienc­e and necessity.

By comparison, a 300 megawatt project in Highland County has been moving forward with recommende­d conditions, not a recommende­d denial as in Birch’s case.

O’Dell notes that several government­al bodies have filed to intervene including Shawnee and Logan Township Trustees, as well as the Bboard of County Commission­ers of Auglaize County.

Both Allen and Auglaize County commission­ers have approved maps restrictin­g large scale solar developmen­t. Allen County commission­ers took note of that in a letter to the board, explaining that if it weren’t for grandfathe­r provisions in Senate Bill 52, the Birch Solar project wouldn’t be considered.

Shawnee Township Chairman Clark A. Spieles is quoted in a letter writing, “Projects of this size are not suitable for areas abutting residentia­l properties in any jurisdicti­on.”

Staff recognized the

entities opposing the project “have responsibi­lity for preserving health safety and welfare within their respective communitie­s.”

“Therefore their interest in and in this case strong opposition to, the project is especially compelling,” O’Dell writes.

OPSB staff said local opposition is common in many siting projects but that opposition in this case has been “especially prominent, one sided and compelling.”

Calling the discussion one-sided may be less than accurate. While the Against Birch Solar group has been vocal at every turn, the project does have its supporters.

Michael Wildermuth of the Allen Auglaize County Coalition for Reasonable Energy cited environmen­tal concerns and energy independen­ce. He also provided more than 250 area names and addresses of people who agreed with his stance in supporting the projects

Coalition member Frank Caprilla testified over the course of 334 pages about the financial benefit the Payment In Lieu of Taxes would bring to area schools, especially

Shawnee Local Schools, adding about $1 million annually to the schools revenue.

The project is taking into considerat­ion OPSB conditions. Lightsourc­e BP project Director Shanelle Montana in her testimony said they are implementi­ng 300 feet setbacks and offering payments for neighborin­g homes within 500 feet of panels. Montana said a $500,000 community fund would also be created for Allen and Auglaize counties.

Board staff, according to O’Dell’s testimony, believe any benefits to the local community are outweighed by overwhelmi­ng public opposition.

There have been numerous conditions recommende­d, including a fence that fits in better in a rural environmen­t and allow the passage of small wildlife.

Conditions also limit constructi­on times and noise, and minimize impact to wildlife and vegetation.

Staff are also recommendi­ng conditions protecting neighborin­g parcels from damage to drain tiles from the project.

This had also been a concern for the Auglaize County commission­ers, who are frequently involved in ditch petitions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States