Potential drainage problems concern Birch Solar opponents


By Mackenzi Klemann - [email protected]



SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — Opponents of the Birch Solar project are concerned the proposed 300-megawatt solar farm could exacerbate drainage issues in an area surrounded by some 200 homes and properties, members of the Against Birch Solar group told the Allen County Board of Commissioners on Thursday.

The solar farm would be installed on 1,400 acres of farmland in Shawnee Township, pending the approval of the Ohio Power Siting Board.

But its proximity to hundreds of households has stirred opposition from many in a community worried about the project’s long-term impact on property values, drainage problems and the sustainability of Shawnee Township.

“I plan to fight this through the Ohio Supreme Court, because my property is being threatened,” said Mark Wellman, whose Winona Lake property is located roughly 70 feet from where solar panels could be installed if the project is approved.

Wellman and Jim Thompson III, who formed the Lima Ohio Birch Solar Industrial Project Facebook group and has organized community meetings about the project, shared their concerns with the commissioners Thursday.

Chief among those concerns is the potential for flooding caused by stormwater runoff from the solar project area.

Wellman and Thompson provided photos of recent flooding at a Hardin County solar farm, which show pools of water forming underneath and nearby solar panels in what is marked as a high-voltage area.

“Without any type of detention ponds,” Thompson said, “I strongly believe that not only our creeks and streams will be inundated with additional stormwater runoff, but it will also affect more people like me who are still on rural septic systems.”

The duo spoke of an alleged lack of transparency from Lightsource bp, as residents were not notified of the project until last fall, and of fears that the 1,400 acres of farmland may be reduced to a brownfield in several decades if the solar project eventually leaves.

Local governments can intervene in a project before the Ohio Power Siting Board, which grants townships and counties access to documents in the case and the ability to participate in hearings or appeal the board’s decision to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Doing so would also enable those governing bodies to have more influence in the process, potentially resolving some disputes between landowners, residents and developers.

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By Mackenzi Klemann

[email protected]

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