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Solar goes dark, for now

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A field of solar panels won’t soon sprout on the Glass Farm as planned, though a local solar farm is still possible.

On Monday Council voted 5–0 to cancel the Village’s contract with SolarVision, a Westerville company, to finance, build and own a 2.5-megawatt array on Village property to supply 10 percent of the community’s electricity. Council members said SolarVision’s delays in securing financing and the Village’s desire to pursue other options for a local solar project were behind the decision.

“It would be interesting to hear what other companies propose,” said Interim Village Manager Laura Curliss at the meeting, and recommended that the Village Energy Commission elicit proposals from solar companies to bring to Council.

Other Council members reaffirmed their commitment to a local solar project down the road.

“To me [a solar farm’s] still a great idea and I’m going to do what I can to make it happen however we have to go about it,” said Council member Rick Walkey in a recent interview. Local generation is superior to purchasing green power from an outside source, Walkey said, because, “when it’s in your backyard, it’s more real.”

Last May the Village signed an agreement with SolarVision in which the company had 240 days to raise the estimated $9 to $11 million for the project. After that time, the Village could cancel the contract. According to Mike Dickman, vice president of SolarVision, investors have been worried about possible changes in Ohio law and other uncertainties in the renewable energy market. Of its 10 Ohio solar projects in the pipeline, SolarVision has funded only one, a 5-megawatt array for the City of Celina that broke ground last year. So far no other community has decided to cancel its contract with SolarVision, according to Dickman.

Council President Judith Hempfling said in an interview that by canceling the contract, the Village would have more flexibility to pursue another solar project instead of just “waiting around” for SolarVision to finance the project.

“There are other possible ways to do it and we might be able to get it done in a more effective way,” Hempfling said.

Curliss, who managed the installation of a 56-kilowatt municipal solar array on an former manufacturing site for the City of Wilmington, said there are other methods for financing a solar project, including grant funding and partnerships, and that the Village has many of the assets companies are looking for.

“We have something that not all communities have, which is land and a good credit rating,” Curliss said.

Meanwhile local residents and institutions are pioneering smaller, residential and commercial scale projects on their own. Antioch College has plans to erect a 50-kilowatt photovoltaic system on the roof of recently-renovated North Hall. In recent years, Eric Clark installed a 4.7-kilowatt solar array on top of the Springs Motel, Fred and Kathy Stockwell put up a 2.5-kilowatt wind turbine and solar array at their Yellow Springs-Fairfield Road home, village resident Pat Brown installed a 1.119-kilowatt solar array on her roof on Stewart Street, and Harvey and Ruth Paige mounted a 3.45-kilowatt array in their backyard on Meadow Lane. These local projects have a combined capacity of 0.06-megawatts, while the municipal solar farm was expected to generate more than 40 times as much electricity.


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