AEP Ohio requests proposals for 100 MW solar despite RPS freeze

In an area long fueled by coal mines, AEP wants to focus much of its new 100 MW solar development in Appalachian Ohio. Here, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visits Ohio miners in Neff in 1935.

One of Ohio’s largest utilities wants to build 100 MW of solar projects despite legislative attempts to curb renewable incentives.

In a formal requests-for-proposal (RFP) documents released last Friday, AEP Ohio, a unit of American Electric Power, is looking for companies interested in building up to 100 MW of solar energy resources (each 10 MW or greater).

The timing of AEP’s RFP is interesting, given only two weeks ago The Ohio House of Representatives voted to slow-walk increases its renewable portfolio standards (RPS), including a tiny solar carve-out, until 2021.

The legislation also turned the RPS into a voluntary program without any compliance obligations through 2021, rendering it a largely meaningless “goal.”

As pv magazine reported, Ohio became the first state in the nation to freeze its RPS in 2014 — with a solar carve-out of only 0.12 percent. As a result, solar installations fell from 15 to 10 MW, and most analysts expect those numbers to continue to drop. But AEP wants to continue its solar development.

The RFP is part of a stipulated agreement between AEP Ohio and the state’s Public Utilities Commission signed on Nov. 3, in which the utility agreed to build 400 MW of solar generation in Ohio.

The utility says it will give special consideration to projects sited in Appalachian Ohio, a region and political unit in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Ohio, characterized by the western foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and Appalachian Plateau. It also stated that it wants to create permanent manufacturing jobs in that area and is committed to hiring Ohio military veterans.

A study of Ohio poverty by the state’s Development Services Agency and released in February reported that 17.8 percent of the people in Appalachian Ohio were poor. By comparison, the poverty rate for the rest of Ohio averaged 15.5 percent. Unemployment in the area ranges from 4.5 percent to 9 percent — nearly twice the national average on the upper end of the scale — according to Ohio’s Department of Job and Family Services.

Proposals are due Feb. 16 and are subject to PUCO approval.

AEP Ohio currently has a long-term power purchase agreements with the 10 MW Wyandot Solar Farm near Upper Sandusky, Ohio. AEP Ohio provides electricity to nearly 1.5 million customers in the state.