The Ohio State University Extension
service is deeply involved in a renewable energy project bringing solar energy resources to Wyandot County, Ohio. With a jump-start from Ohio Senate Bill 221, which set out the requirements for solar generation, American Electric Power (AEP) issued a request for proposals to build a solar generation facility. What is really striking is that the planned facility, when fully functional, will feed approximately 10.08 MW to AEP for distribution on the power grid. Furthermore, it will be the largest solar generation facility in the Midwest and one of the largest in the US. At capacity, the facility will literally prevent tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the air because solar is clean, green power. Further, approximately 100 construction jobs will be tied to the project. The solar panels, themselves, will come from First Solar, Inc. in Perrysburg, Ohio.
Eric Romich, OSU Extension agent and head of community development for Wyandot County, is now serving as director of the Wyandot County Economic Development Office
, which is mobilizing an effort on many levels to make solar power a reality for the area. “We had several companies initially contact us to gauge the level of community support that might be available for such a project,” says Romich, “and since then, myself and others have been working with the County Commissioners, Township Trustees, school board, and others to measure that support, gather opinions, offer information, determine potential impact, discuss long-term effects, etc.”
Wyandot Solar LLC, has moved from exploratory discussions to the planning and implementation stage as they finalized a 25-year lease agreement with Wyandot County, Romich reports. By forming Wyandot Solar, LLC, to hold the paper on the project, the relationship among county commissioners, AEP, and Juwi coalesced. “We approached the relationship among these entities as a partnership, right from the beginning,” says Romich. “It was important to us locally because it’s a 25-year commitment, and we want to be very sure that we have done our research and this does not turn into a 25-year headache.”
To date, the project is slated to occupy a slightly more than 84 acres that will support at least 160,000 solar collection panels. The completion date is targeted for the third quarter of 2010. A pre-bid meeting for building the facility was held in August, 2009, and the site can be staged in September, after the corn and beans currently growing there have been harvested. That said, construction could begin as soon as October, 2009.
Many aspects of the project are getting special attention. For example, County Commissioner, Steve Seitz, himself a certified volunteer naturalist, got involved in this 80 to 90-acre solar field by suggesting that site planners work with the OSU Extension to provide an undergrowth that would support wild life. That led to the involvement of Extension agents Chris Brunis and Marnie Titchenell, who is a wildlife program specialist. They worked up a recommendation for a seed mix that Juwi is presently evaluating. “What we might do is use a few acres of the site to test seed mixes allowing us to optimize a undergrowth product for future projects,” says Romich. “We want to demonstrate how effectively we can make this project work in Ohio. That could be a strong incentive for similar projects to pop up in other places.”
Juwi Solar has a strong presence in Europe and has made Germany a top producer of solar energy. “If you look at the amount of daily sunlight in Germany (not exactly known as a sunny place) and compare it to Ohio, I think we have a significant solar resource for the generation of power here in Ohio,” says Romich.
“One of the biggest challenges to making such a renewable energy project work is related to taxing, and the need for an enterprise zone agreement to be established,” says Romich. As part of the enterprise zone agreement there will be a direct compensation agreement with the school system. In addition, 3 to 4 KW solar generation systems are being designed for all three high schools in Wyandot County. Juwi has already provided an in-depth curriculum for Upper Sandusky and the other high school sites, so that power and learning will evolve together in a hands-on learning experience.
Other counties wanting to develop their own sustainable energy are interested in the project, regardless of whether their plans include solar, biomass, wind, or other renewable projects because much of what is learned-by -doing in Wyandot County might be useful to their efforts in the future.
Looking to the next steps, Romich is already working towards a company attraction effort to bring businesses that make solar industry parts to the Wyandot County area. “Solar has the potential to grow 40 percent annually over the next decade,” he says. “With solar being one of the Ohio Department of Development’s target industries, we hope this will be a huge step towards diversifying our local economy and an opportunity for the state to capitalize on the growth of solar in Ohio and elsewhere.”
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juwi solar has built over 750 solar projects for a total installed capacity of 100MWs. These projects include grid-tied systems operating in Germany, Spain, Italy, and Africa. juwi solar offers a multitude of solutions to implement large scale solar projects in North America. This expertise includes turnkey solutions for solar projects: integrating and managing the process from the initial development and design through construction and operations; and juwi solar provides an on-time, on-budget and low-cost solar generating facility.
Wyandot Solar LLC. is a subsidiary company of Juwi Solar, and will own and operate the solar generation facility located in Wyandot County, and has entered into a long-term lease agreement for the use of the land owned by the County . Wyandot Solar LLC and AEP have entered into a power purchase agreement. (AEP to buy power from solar facility to distribute to their customers).