LIMA — Two weeks ago, the Allen County Board of Commissioners penned a letter to the Ohio Power Siting Board about community concerns about the Birch Solar Project. On Tuesday morning, they were met with a response from the other side.
Representatives from the Allen Auglaize Coalition for Reasonable Energy, or ACRE for short, discussed the letter with county commissioners, making arguments against many of the points that were brought up.
“What we wanted them to do was was the same thing for us in our perspective to say, ‘Here, there are another group of people with the opposite point of view that see (Birch Solar) as a very positive thing,’” said ACRE representative Michael Wildermuth. “And we’re asking them to file our letter along with the others to show that there are people in the county on both sides of the issue, that it’s not just one side or the other.”
ACRE drafted its own letter in response to the initial letter sent by county commissioners. In it, they attempt to debunk some of the common misconceptions about Birch Solar. The letter dismisses the idea that the local economy would not benefit from the project, as some opposed to the project might argue. Detractors of the project argue Allen County would not reap the energy rewards because energy from the project has been sold to an out-of-state entity.
“Having a huge supply of electricity available right here is a positive thing for currently local customers and for local development,” the letter reads. “We would be foolish to turn our backs on the extraordinary benefits this would bring to our local energy situation.”
The discussion comes one day after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 52, adding more regulation and requiring more local input from residents for companies looking to develop wind and solar projects in Ohio. The full impact that the bill will have on Birch Solar is still to be determined, but the project is still moving forward as planned.
Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan said that he thought the conversation was productive, but the decision to move the project forward is ultimately up to the power siting board, not the county commissioners.
“We don’t have the decision-making ability on this,” he said. “What we are is a conduit for concerns, and that’s what we’ve expressed since the fall of 2020 when this came about.”