Opposition speaks up as Lightsource bp promotes solar project


By Sam Shriver - sshriver@limanews.com



Dozens of people protested the Birch Solar Farm project at a public hearing Wednesday night at Apollo Career Center.

Dozens of people protested the Birch Solar Farm project at a public hearing Wednesday night at Apollo Career Center.


Sam Shriver | The Lima News

Lightsource bp CEO Kevin Smith discussed the Birch Solar Project at a public meeting Wednesday night at Apollo Career Center.

Lightsource bp CEO Kevin Smith discussed the Birch Solar Project at a public meeting Wednesday night at Apollo Career Center.


Sam Shriver | The Lima News

Not everyone was interested in hearing about the Birch Solar Farm project proposed by Lightsource BP.


Sam Shriver | The Lima News

ONLY ON LIMAOHIO.COM

Read more about the Birch Solar project at LimaOhio.com/tag/BirchSolar.

SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — A large crowd packed Apollo Career Center to hear about Lightsource bp’s plans for the Birch Solar Project, a 375-megawatt direct-current solar farm to be located on 2,600 acres of farmland in Allen and Auglaize counties.

Some people in the crowd weren’t waiting for answers, though, yelling out “you’re lying” when the project’s CEO spoke. Many people held signs protesting the solar farm.

Vocal crowd members expressed their desire about not wanting a solar farm in their backyards, raising issues about sight lines from their homes, possible lower property values, what happens if the company leaves and what could happen if the solar panels leached.

Lightsource bp CEO Kevin Smith says he was surprised by the welcome he received here.

“We understand that ‘wind’ projects can get a fair amount of pushback. There are noise issues and visual effects that are a lot more significant,” he said. “Solar is very low profile. It’s 8-, 9-feet tall, and that’s it.

“We’re going to put in additional screening as required, and we’ve been rolling out a compensation program for adjoining landowners where they’ll get a payment. We’re just saying because you’re adjacent, you know, we’re willing to make a payment to you. It’s not a pledge of loyalty or anything like that, but we’re willing to do that.”

An estimated 400 jobs will be created during construction. Once it’s up and running, that number dwindles to around 10.

“There’s the leased acreage which was around 2,600 (acres). There’s the fenced acreage, which is around 1,900 (acres), and then there’s the actual paneled acreage, which is only around 900 acres,” said Shanelle Montana, director of development for Lightsource bp.

Those who support or oppose the Birch Solar Project can file a public comment through the Ohio Public Utilities Commission online at j.mp/35HN5vz. The project already had 35 public comments Wednesday night.

In an online public comment, Dave and Lynn McCray, of Shawnee Township, wrote:

“We 100% oppose this project and have numerous concerns. We as residents of Shawnee Township will receive -0- of the electricity produced from this solar field. This is within too close proximity with densely populated areas, housing and schools. Not to mention this will destroy prime, productive agricultural land, wildlife and beautiful countryside in our Township. There will be environmental damage, potential future health problems, runoff, flooding in an already flood-prone area, hazardous chemicals polluting our water supply, maintenance concerns, an ugly 10-foot wire fence surrounding the solar field, reduction in property values and many other areas of concern. The cost of what we will lose is far greater than the benefits we might receive.”

Getting the facts out is something Smith said he wanted to accomplish by holding the public meeting at Apollo.

“We’re just really excited to be there. We understand it’s a change for the community, and we want to really dismiss all of the myths and really start talking about how we can work with the community as the change comes in,” Smith said.

Lightsource bp will be conducting two virtual public meetings, one of them at 6 p.m. Friday and the other at 6 p.m. Monday.

Both meetings will start at 6 p.m. and can be heard by calling 877-229-8493, access code 12004. You can also view it online at BirchSolarVirtualPublicMeeting.com.

Lightsource bp has yet to submit an official application to the Ohio Power Siting Board, which will ultimately decide the project’s fate. If approved, the company hopes to have everything operating in the first quarter of 2023.

Dozens of people protested the Birch Solar Farm project at a public hearing Wednesday night at Apollo Career Center.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/11/web1_Solar-1.jpgDozens of people protested the Birch Solar Farm project at a public hearing Wednesday night at Apollo Career Center. Sam Shriver | The Lima News
Lightsource bp CEO Kevin Smith discussed the Birch Solar Project at a public meeting Wednesday night at Apollo Career Center.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/11/web1_Solar-2.jpgLightsource bp CEO Kevin Smith discussed the Birch Solar Project at a public meeting Wednesday night at Apollo Career Center. Sam Shriver | The Lima News
Not everyone was interested in hearing about the Birch Solar Farm project proposed by Lightsource BP.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/11/web1_Solar-3.jpgNot everyone was interested in hearing about the Birch Solar Farm project proposed by Lightsource BP. Sam Shriver | The Lima News

By Sam Shriver

sshriver@limanews.com

ONLY ON LIMAOHIO.COM

Read more about the Birch Solar project at LimaOhio.com/tag/BirchSolar.

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

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