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Solar farm is still on track

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As long as the sun continues to shine on Yellow Springs, the Village could begin receiving power from a local solar photovoltaic project in 2012.

In May the Village finalized a contract with SolarVision in which the Westerville, Ohio company would finance, construct, own and maintain solar facilities on the Village-owned Glass Farm land for 20 years, with the Village agreeing to purchase the power for $0.07 per kilowatt hour for the first 10 years. At the time, company principals said that the project needed to be launched by the end of the year to be eligible to receive federal financing.

While no ground has been broken, the project is expected to move ahead, according to Mike Dickman, vice president of SolarVision, in an interview this week. With financing for the 2.5-megawatt solar array nearly complete, the project will likely break ground in six months, he said.

Though financing took longer than expected due to tight commercial lending markets, SolarVision is on target to raise between $60 million and $80 million for its 10 Ohio solar projects totaling 20.5 megawatts, Dickman said. As long as SolarVision completes its paperwork and commits some equipment to construction by the end of 2011, they will be eligible for the federal investment tax credits slated to expire that make the project financially viable, he added.

“We still believe it will go forward,” Dickman said. “We’re in final negotiations.”

Dickman said that SolarVision was not competing for funds with oil and gas companies increasingly leasing land in Ohio for shale gas drilling using hydraulic fracturing. Instead, general economic conditions and the reputation of the renewable energy industry, especially after the bankrupcy of solar energy company Solyndra, which received federal loans, have affected financing.

“There are issues in the industry that are not specific to any of these projects,” Dickman said. “It just makes it more difficult. It doesn’t mean it’s not going forward and it’s not viable. It just raises questions you have to answer.”

The local solar farm itself will cost between $9 million and $11 million, according to Dickman. Once financing is in place and construction is ready to begin, SolarVision will pay the Village $500,000 for its use of the land.

The panels will cover approximately 15 acres on the western edge of the 43-acre Glass Farm, with about five additional acres for infrastructure and a gravel access road off of Yellow Springs-Fairfield Road, said Jeremy Chapman of MeLink, which would design and procure the panels, in April.

Chapman said this week that MeLink, of Milford, is waiting on SolarVision’s confirmation of financing to complete the final engineering of the system and begin initial site work on the property. Chapman anticipates no additional delays before construction can begin.

“The financing is always the biggest hurdle,” Chapman said, adding that construction would take from three to six months. Local company Yellow Springs Renewable Energy is then hoping to receive a contract from SolarVision to install and maintain the solar array.

The solar project would deliver 2.0-megawatts of alternating current to the Village’s electricity customers, which amounts to about 10 percent of current consumption, according to an AMP-Ohio study earlier this year.


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