SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — A 375-megawatt solar farm proposed by Lightsource bp has drawn the ire of Shawnee Township residents.
A large crowd turned out Monday night at Shawnee Alliance Church for the monthly Shawnee Township Trustees meeting. The meeting had to be moved from the Shawnee Township House to the church after residents expressed a desire to speak out about the project, which is being developed on 2,600-acres, 10 miles southwest of Lima in parts of Shawnee Township in Allen County and in Logan and Duchouquet Townships in Auglaize County.
The proposal by Lightsource bp would see it invest $337 million dollars in the Utility-Scale Birch Solar Facility project. Once completed, it would generate the equivalent of enough electricity to power 55,000 homes.
Company officials estimate 400 jobs would be generated during the construction phase of the project, but indicate only 10 jobs would remain once it’s operating.
Construction is anticipated to begin in late 2021 or early 2022, pending approval from the Ohio Power Siting Board.
In written remarks obtained by The Lima News before the meeting, Dr. Mark Wellman expressed concern about the project.
“In Ohio, there are currently 16 utility-scale solar facilities that are pending, approved or under construction. Not one is in a township with a population as large as Shawnee Township,” Wellman said. “Large utility-scale solar facilities in Ohio as well as the entire nation are located in extremely low-density population areas. Shawnee Township does not fit the description as a low-density population area.”
Wellman was also concerned about how the project would affect the economy and property values of nearby residences.
“In the Shawnee area, a solar farm may actually have a negative effect on the local economy and damage the economic interests of local residents,” he said. “In assessing the economic impact of solar farms, a county needs to consider whether their presence detracts from the characteristics of the county that attract new families and businesses to the area. Many township residents of the impacted area place a high value on the fact that they live in a scenic area. They take pride in their homes and their surroundings. The conversion of scenic farmland to solar project sites with rows of glass panels is an image in very sharp contrast to how Shawnee Township is currently promoted.”
Shawnee Township trustees may not have much of a say whether the project happens or not.
“We have our zoning that’s in now, but zoning may be superseded by the county commissioners who can establish what’s called an Alternate Energy Zone and that would override the distribution of funds. They would take care of any distribution of revenue that would take place on that and disperse it out to the entities that are involved, said David Belton, Shawnee Township trustee’s vice chairman.
“It could be in the future where our hands are completely tied, that we will not be able to use any of our zoning or actually any of our votes,” Belton added.
Jim Thompson, III, a Shawnee Township resident who has started the Facebook group Lima Ohio Birch Solar Industrial Project, was concerned about a variety of issues, including when trustees first learned about the potential project.
“The cost-benefit for our local community just isn’t there,” Thompson said.
Thompson wants trustees to publicly oppose the project.
“I don’t think it’s a good project,” said Belton. “I don’t think the cost of this is worth disturbing (the land).”
Lightsource bp is holding two virtual public information meetings that are being held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, and on Monday, Nov. 22.
You can listen in by calling 1-877-229-8493, enter access code 120041#. On the web, go to www.BirchSolarVirtualPublicMeeting.com.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.