Three massive projects look to put Ohio on the solar map

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When the words “Ohio” and “solar” are used in the same sentence, chances are that sentence is referring to the system we live in and not the energy source that provides me a job, and with fair reason. Ohio is the birthplace of 24 astronauts, more than any other state. Ohio is also home to only 176 MW of installed solar PV capacity, more than 22 other states, but far from a leading position.

58% of Ohio’s electricity comes from coal, while solar accounts for less than 1%. However, three proposed solar projects, one on the site of a former coal mine, are looking to change that. If all three projects are approved and built, they would increase Ohio’s solar capacity almost 250%.

Two of the projects are being developed by subsidiaries of Chicago’s Invenergy, which also builds gas projects in addition to solar, wind and battery storage. This includes the only project which has yet received approval from the state’s Energy Siting Board, a 150 MW project in Hardin County. The project will be located adjacent to the Hardin Wind Farm, which was developed by another Invenergy subsidiary.

Hardin Solar intends to use Jinko solar panels on NEXTracker SPT single axis tracking systems with SMA inverters, though the application notes that those decisions are still subject to change and list possible alternatives.

Invenergy’s next proposed project in Vinton county has capacity of 125MW. The project sits on privately-owned land that formerly hosted a coal mine, something the project’s application outlines:

The plant and animal life has been heavily influenced by historic habitat loss and modification by previous surface-mining activities for coal, although the land was restored in accordance with modern state and federal regulatory standards to pasture and hayland.

Like the Hardin project, Vinton plans on using Jinko solar panels and SMA inverters, yet unlike Hardon, the panels will be mounted to a fixed-tilt racking system.

The project will have a public hearing on July 24th and an adjudicatory hearing on August 1st. Both of these meetings, as well as the intended construction schedule were put on hold in September, when Vinton requested to suspend the schedule until the required system impact study from PJM Interconnection was completed.

The most recent project, proposed on June 22 is the work of a subsidiary of Texas-based developer Open Road Renewables. The 150 MW facility will sit on 1,400 acres of privately-owned land, just outside of Mowrystown. If approved, the Willowbrook project is planned to begin construction in Q4 2019, with the facility beginning electricity generation in early 2021.

The projects all hint at selling their power to “companies” through power purchase agreements, although there is no indication as to whether the offtakers are utilities or other corporations.

Edit, July 12:
Open Road Renewables has also secured the approval to develop a 125MW solar farm on 2,100 acres of land in Brown County. According to Doug Herling of Open Road, the development will follow the same timeframe as Invenergy’s Hardin project. While specifics have not come out about the specific equipment that will be used, the project will feature both fixed and tracking racking systems for the eventual modules.