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Noble County solar farm still in the works

April 2, 2012
By Sam Shawver - The Marietta Times (sshawver@mariettatimes.com) , The Marietta Times

A solar energy farm that will generate enough electricity to power an estimated 28,000 homes is still on the planning board in Noble County, but officials there expect construction on the facility could now begin in the latter half of this year.

"We're all excited about it and have been following through with a lot of paperwork to get this project underway-so we're not slowing it down on our side," said Noble County Commissioner Gary Rossiter.

The $200 million facility, being built by Turning Point Solar, LLC, will be constructed on 850 acres of reclaimed coal mine property, and construction is expected to be completed in 2015.

"I think Noble and surrounding counties will benefit during the construction phase," Rossiter said. "And once it's done this will be the largest solar facility of its type in this end of the country."

Mike Lloyd, Ohio State University Extension educator and community development official in Noble County, said at least 125 construction workers will be needed to start building the facility.

"There will be a lot of construction jobs involved, probably with both local and regional workers," he said.

Fact Box

Q&A: Partner explains details of the solar farm project\Evan Blumer is a partner in New Harvest Ventures of Columbus and Chicago, which has joined with Agile Energy from San Bruno, Calif., to form Turning Point Solar, LLC, the company developing a $200 million solar farm in Noble County.

Q: How big is this project?

A: This will be a 49.9 megawatt solar energy farm, one of the largest in the world and the largest in the eastern U.S. It will include 250,000 solar panels and will be built on nearly 800 acres of reclaimed mine land. The land doesn't have much production value, so it can't be used for a lot of other projects. That's why we chose it.

Q: When will construction begin and how will the facility be built?

A: Construction could begin late this year or early 2013, and will provide about 300 construction jobs total over three years.

It will be built in three phases. The first will be able to generate 20 megawatts, the second will add 15 megawatts and the third will be another 14.9 megawatts, making a total generating capacity of 49.9 megawatts.

(Although it will have that capacity, the Noble facility will not generate 49.9 megawatts of electricity. The capacity for 49.9 megawatts is a state requirement for a solar farm.)

Q: Will the Noble solar facility provide opportunities for other businesses?

A: Yes. A major manufacturer and supplier of solar panels, Isofoton, a Spanish company, is locating in the Toledo area and will provide 350 permanent manufacturing jobs for Ohioans.

We had hoped that facility would also be located in Appalachian Ohio, but they chose the Toledo area.

While the Isofoton project is not ours, it is related and will be a national center for that company.

But local contractors, suppliers, and laborers will be hired during construction of the Noble County solar farm, and downstream other businesses will benefit as part of the facility's supply chain.

One challenge is that, once constructed, only six to eight people are required to operate and maintain the solar farm.

Still there will be lots of people wanting to see this facility once it's built, and it will be nearly next door to The Wilds. Groups of people visiting The Wilds will also want to see this solar farm, and they will be eating at local restaurants, staying at hotels and buying gasoline at local stations.

Sam Shawver conducted this interview.

At a glance

Turning Point Solar, LLC, a joint venture between New Harvest Ventures of Columbus and Agile Energy from San Bruno, Calif., will construct a 49.9 megawatt solar farm in Noble County.

Construction of the solar farm on 850 acres of reclaimed mining land is expected to begin late this year or early 2013.

The project is expected to generate more than 300 jobs over the three years of construction.

When completed the facility will be operated by six to eight employees.

Source: Times research

Lloyd said the county is continuing to work toward some proposed tax incentives for the project.

"We're getting close, but are still negotiating on the incentives," he said. "The county has formed an Alternative Energy Zone-we believe the only one in southeast Ohio-that makes us eligible to offer certain incentives."

Solar panels to be used at the facility are being constructed in northern Ohio. But there's still a chance that mounting and tracking gear for the solar farm could be built locally.

"That's not as likely as it once was, but it's still not impossible," Lloyd said. "The solar cells are being built in Napoleon, Ohio, but the tracking gear location is still unknown."

Turning Point Solar, LLC, is a joint venture between New Harvest Ventures of Columbus and Chicago, and Agile Energy in San Bruno, Calif.

American Electric Power of Ohio has invested $20 million in the project, which helps the power company meet state requirements that a percentage of the electricity generated comes from solar sources.

Earlier this year AEP Ohio spokesman Jeff Rennie said the company currently must generate only 0.06 percent of its electricity through solar power, but by 2024 that must increase to 0.5 percent from solar sources.

He also noted AEP customers can expect an increase of around 25 cents a month on their power bills once the Noble County solar farm is finished because solar energy costs more to produce than coal.

 
 
 

 

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