XENIA — The Ohio Power Siting Board staff has recommended denial of Vesper Energy’s application to build a solar farm in the county.
In a 59-page report to the board, technical staff indicated that construction of Kingwood Solar, an electric generating facility on 1,500 acres between Cedarville and Yellow Springs, would not serve “the public interest, convenience, and necessity.”
“There is general opposition to the project from the local citizens and local governmental bodies,” the report said, adding that trustees in Cedarville, Miami, and Xenia townships and the Greene County commissioners have all filed motions to intervene.
“Many of these entities have responsibility for preserving the health, safety, and welfare within their respective communities,” staff wrote. “Therefore, their interest in and, in this case strong opposition to, the project is especially compelling. While some local opposition is common in many siting projects, considering the above opposition filed in the docket and expressed at the local public hearings, staff recognizes that in this proceeding it has been especially prominent, one-sided, and compelling. Any benefits to the local community are outweighed by this overwhelming public opposition and, therefore, the project would not serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity.”
The OPSB has the final say and if it chooses to issue a permit, staff recommends 37 conditions including limiting construction to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or until dusk when sunset occurs after 7 p.m.; submitting an updated decommissioning plan and total decommissioning cost estimate; and submitting an emergency response plan.
“We are aware of the conditions of course,” said Dylan Stickney, Vesper Energy development manager. “We were expecting that where would be conditions. We’ll be working the with the power siting board staff to review and better understand what those conditions are.”
In the meantime, Vesper has begun reaching out to residents in the area seeking their cooperation through a good neighbor agreement. In a letter, Vesper offered a $1,000 payment for signing on and then a lump-sum payment of between $7,500-$25,000 based on proximity to and boundaries shared with the project area.
“As a neighboring landowner to the Kingwood Solar Project, we appreciate your understanding and cooperation as construction is scheduled to begin in 2022,” the letter said. “Kingwood Solar will bring economic development and technological advancement to Greene County, and homegrown, clean energy to Ohio. Vesper Energy views each project as a partnership with the host community, and we strive to maximize the benefit to residents.”
The tiered payments will be issued when and if Vesper receives its notice to proceed with project construction, Stickney said.
“It’s often a standard offer,” Stickney said. “In an instance like this, where we recognize there’s abutting landowners to our project area that could see a change to the neighboring land use … we’re certainly trying to do everything we can to engage with those folks.”
Members of the public have another chance to voice their opinions during a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 15 at the Greene County Fairgrounds. An adjudicatory hearing — open to the public — will include testimony and cross-examination from formal parties in the case at 10 a.m. Dec. 13 in Columbus.
The siting board would take all public comments, testimony, the application and supporting materials, and the staff report into consideration when rendering a final decision.
“The case remains pending,” said OPSB Public Information Officer Matt Butler. “I would say (the report is) a significant step in the process, but to keep in mind that it’s a recommendation to the board but it’s not a final decision.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.