Solar-power plant planned for southwestern Ohio would be state’s largest


By Mark Ferenchik - The Columbus Dispatch



MOWRYSTOWN — A Chicago-based company wants to build what would be Ohio’s largest solar power generating plant in the southwestern part of the state.

The reason why Hecate Energy wants to build in Highland County near the village of Mowrystown? It’s the sunniest part of Ohio.

The company plans to build a 300-megawatt power plant on about 2,500 acres about 3 miles northwest of Mowrystown. The site is about 90 miles southwest of Columbus.

The electricity generated there would be connected to the transmission grid, but its unclear which utility or company would use the power.

“It’s not identified yet,” said Patti Shorr, Hecate’s vice president of project development.

Neil Waggoner, the campaign representative of the Sierra Club, said Hecate hasn’t indicated to his organization whether it has a customer. But Waggoner called the project a “big deal.”

Hecate has yet to file an application letter with the Ohio Power Siting Board. But it has filed a pre-application letter with the board, and has held a public information meeting at a Highland County high school on Sept. 17 that was attended by about 80 people.

The project would be the largest of its kind in Ohio. Once Hecate submits an application to the board, chances are the company will try to secure a power purchase agreement with a customer.

The company has 90 days from the time of the meeting to submit an application, with the board deciding whether to approve it within nine months of the application.

Shorr said the Sept. 17 meeting was the first of a “pretty robust process” designed for public input. She said she expects the application will be filed in October.

Barbara Lund, an 81-year-old environmental activist who lives in nearby Adams County, said she is for solar power as an alternative energy source but would like to know more about the financing.

“I think it’s the future. It’s coming slowly,” said Lund, who is with Save Our Shawnee Forest.

“It’s big business.”

Waggoner said the Sierra Club is excited about the project, which is part of a trend toward solar-power projects announced for Ohio. Waggoner referred to the 2015 settlement in which American Electric Power was granted a profit guarantee for selected coal-fired power plants in exchange for 500 megawatts of wind energy and 400 megawatts of solar energy. Also, AEP agreed to close or switch two coal-fired power plants to natural gas or another fuel and make other concessions.

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By Mark Ferenchik

The Columbus Dispatch

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