Solar Farm: Lightsource bp peppered with questions from residents

By Sam Shriver -

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for web only

LIMA — Residents hoped to hear specifics Monday night as to where Lightsource bp wants to build a solar farm.

It didn’t happen.

The first question from the public during the virtual meeting with Lightsource dealt with the final layout of where the solar project would be located.

“Details of all of those panels, we haven’t determined that yet,” said Shanelle Montana, director of development for Lightsource bp. She noted Lightsource bp has yet to submit a formal application to the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), which is the agency that will ultimately approve or reject the Birch Solar Project.

Those specifics could be a month away.

In her answer to a question from Ashley Shafer, who wanted to know how long would it be before the footprint of the solar farm would be established, Montana responded, “I would have to say in the next month when we submit our application to the OPSB.”

The meeting was the second public forum on the proposed project, which is a requirement of the OPSB. The meetings are designed to clear up any questions from those interested in the project.

One person asked about the Payment in Lieu of Taxes and where it stands at the moment.

“We’re in very early stages in discussing the PILOT, however there has been no formal negotiations,” Montana said.

Lightsource indicated it would offer Payment In Lieu of Taxes to the tune of $2.7 million a year, which would be split four ways between the Joint Vocational School District, the local school district, the county and the townships.

Lightsource has reached out to both Allen and Auglaize County commissioners and the auditor’s offices in both counties to start the conversations over the Payment in Lieu of Taxes.

Landowners who are adjacent to the project will be offered anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000, depending on their closeness to the solar farm.

A woman wanted to know what kind of trees will be planted as a buffer between the solar farm and adjacent landowners.

“We are going to be working with each land owner. Traditionally we are looking at evergreens,” Montana said.

Dave Stratton, president and CEO of the Allen County Development Group, inquired about the next steps in the solar project.

“We are collecting community input. …We are starting to draft our application and see how much we can put into the project, what kinds of trees to put in, what kinds of fencing to put in,” Montana said.

The lighting from the solar farm was a concern of one man.

“All of our solar projects, there is no night lighting,” said Steve Barnes, an engineer with Lightsource bp.

Shawnee Township Trustee David Belton asked, “Will the local township zoning requirements be looked at?”

“We are regulated by the state process instead. The actual zoning for the project is through the state,” Montana said.

Jill Barnes was concerned about a tornado hitting the solar panels and voiced concern about cancer risks and RF radiation from the solar farm.

Kevin Smith, CEO of Lightsource bp replied, “There’s been no evidence of the side effects you identified. There’s no hazardous materials in them, even if broken. The projects are proven to be safe.”

One of the questions dealt with whether any contractor has been chosen yet.

“We have not selected any contractors at this point. We are taking lots of inquiries from local (contractors). We want to hire 85% local for the project,” Barnes said.

The project would lie in Allen and parts of Auglaize counties and provide around 400 jobs during construction.

Lightsource bp is leasing 2,600 acres of farmland where 900 acres of photovoltaic solar panels would be placed.

The panels are designed to follow the sun from east to west.

If approved, the solar farm should be up and running in the first or second quarter of 2023.

The entire first hour was devoted to Lightsource bp explaining who they are and what the project details.

The $300 million solar farm would generate 300 megawatts. alternating current.

Lightsource bp would convert the DC current generated by the solar panels to AC through inverters and then transferred to the southwest Lima substation, feeding into the PJM electrical grid.

A representative from the Ohio Power Siting Board then discussed the procedures for permitting.

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By Sam Shriver

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.

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