LIMA — With the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) set to meet Wednesday through Friday concerning the proposed Birch Solar I solar power generation project, officials in the two affected counties — Allen and Auglaize — have been working to make their positions clear leading up to those hearings.
Auglaize County Commissioners passed a resolution Thursday stating that project producer LightSourceBP has worked to meet stipulations regarding drainage and road maintenance put forth by the commissioners on behalf of concerned residents who would be affected by this project. That same day, Allen County Commissioners passed a resolution approving a memorandum of understanding between the board and LightSourceBP addressing similar issues, allowing for the continuation and implementation of a drainage and road use maintenance agreement (DRUMA) should the OPSB approve the project.
“It’s basically a good faith effort on both parts,” Allen County Commissioner Beth Seibert said. “We think that really is a win for us and will allow us to address all of our concerns, not just part of our concerns.”
Seibert emphasized that this was not intended as a tacit endorsement of the project, as this DRUMA is still contingent upon final approval by the siting board. As in Auglaize County, this project was “grandfathered” in as far as jurisdiction, as this project was proposed before the passage of Senate Bill 52 in June 2021, which gave county commissioners the final authority to approve renewable energy developments. Seibert noted that this project would have been rejected had it not been for that detail.
“We don’t want anyone to think that we’ve now come on board with this project, because that is the furthest thing from the truth,” Seibert said. “We’re not waving the green flag for the Birch Solar I project.”
In advance of next week’s meetings, Allen County Commissioners sent correspondence to the OPSB updating previous correspondence that outlined eight concerns that county officials had concerning the project.
“We edited that letter and reflected on how, since that letter we wrote, we have prohibited large scale wind and solar,” she said. “We have left open approximately 2,000 acres of industrial zoned space in Shawnee and Perry townships [for other potential projects]. We have prohibited development in all other unincorporated areas. We have no jurisdiction as county commissioners over any incorporated areas.”
This will not prohibit the potential development of solar and wind power generation in Allen County, Seibert said, but this prohibition means it will be on a more restricted scale, with any projects generating 50 megawatts of power or more falling under the Senate Bill 52 purview. Seibert said the Birch Solar I project should generate about 300 megawatts of power.
“Elida schools told me they’re working on a 10-acre solar project, which I think generates about 4 megawatts,” she said. “I told them they were under the limits of the prohibition, so they are good to go.”
Seibert said that she will attend the OPSB hearings in Columbus next week as an observer but will not testify.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0391 or on Twitter @cmkelly419.