XENIA — The Greene County commissioners will host a town hall meeting next week about a proposed solar-powered electric generating facility in Greene County. The town hall is an opportunity for the Greene County commissioners to hear local concerns about the facility, which has sparked consternation among local residents.
The town hall will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 6 at the Greene County Fairgrounds Assembly Hall, 120 Fairground Road in Xenia.
The proposed solar facility, titled Kingwood Solar Project, is the work of Vesper Energy, a solar company headquartered in Texas. Vesper acquired and rebranded Lendlease Energy Development, LLC, which has operated in the Miami Valley since 2015.
The proposed solar farm would be located on approximately 1,500 acres between Yellow Springs and Cedarville, most of which is currently in agricultural use. The site has “favorable solar resources,” meaning ample sunlight exposure year round, and flat, arable land. Vesper is partnering with First Energy to operate the facility and provide supporting infrastructure.
The Kingwood Solar project is designed to be a 175-megawatt facility, and is expected to generate approximately 360,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year. This is enough to supply electricity to approximately 33,800 households, roughly half the households in Greene County.
Several local residents have raised concerns with the project, however. The group Citizens for Greene Acres has asked the Greene County commissioners to intervene in the approval process, arguing that the project would transform prime arable farmland into an industrial solar operation.
Vesper Energy held a public information meeting on March 30 in an effort to address some of these concerns.
“Understanding that Greene County has a long history of agricultural land use and preservation, Kingwood Solar is very cognizant of limiting impacts on the project site and other areas,” said Dylan Stickney, Vesper Energy development manager.
To this end, the company plans to retain native vegetation, limit the ground disturbance of the project, and plant pollinator-friendly ground cover. The pylons that support the solar panels do not have any concrete foundation, Stickney said, minimizing the impact of construction on the quality of the land. Financial securities are also in place to decommission the project and restore the land to farming at the end of its lifespan.
According to County Administrator Brandon Huddleson, the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) has the final authority on whether the project is approved or denied. However, the commissioners have the power to intervene in the approval process in its initial stages — a power they plan to exercise.
”[The commissioners] are acutely aware that there are concerns, and they want to hear them all,” Huddleson said Friday.
Other citizen concerns include the solar farm causing reduced property values, as well as damage to area wildlife, including Glen Helen and John Bryan State Park.
“CGA intends to participate in the OPSB review process and to have our voices heard as the Board considers the Kingwood energy project in the coming months/years,” Citizens for Greene Acres wrote on its website. “We desire to raise questions, to provide input about short-term and long-term concerns, and to empower local residents to do the same.”
The commissioners also have the authority to approve a PILOT program, or “payment in lieu of taxes.” As solar panel infrastructure is taxed as personal property, the value can depreciate over time, lowering tax revenue. A PILOT program would cause Kingwood Solar to be taxed at a flat rate, generating more than $1.5 million in revenue for every year of its operation. However, the commissioners do not plan on taking this option.
Trustees from Xenia, Miami, and Cedarville townships have also been invited to the town hall.
“This is an opportunity for the commissioners to listen,” Huddleson said.
The project is currently in the pre-application phase with the OPSB. Vesper plans to submit its application to the OPSB this month.
Reach London Bishop at 937-502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.