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107-megawatt solar farm’s construction starts

Posted By: The Toledo Blade on November 28, 2022.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.


A sprawling tract of about 1,000 acres in Gorham Township is on its way toward becoming a 107-megawatt solar farm.

With site preparation having begun in October, Arche Energy Project, LLC and its Kansas-based construction contractor on Nov. 18 received a building permit for the $74.39 million project from the Wood County Building Inspection office, which handles all commercial building projects for Fulton County.

And Arche, based in Houston, belongs to an English company that is half-owned by another English company Ohioans are most likely to associate with gasoline: BP.

Also identified on Lightsource bp web pages as Arche Solar, the company expects its solar farm to be ready for commercial operation in early 2024 and to operate for at least 30 years.

Solar panels on tracking racks that allow their surfaces to follow the sun’s daily progress across the sky will cover about 675 acres of the irregularly shaped area that Arche assembled.

On a map, the tract resembles a running figure, with its head on the north side of U.S. 20 east of Fulton County Road 23 and the rest of its body on U.S. 20’s south side between county roads 21 and 23, east and southeast of Fayette.

The site also will have access roads, an operations and maintenance building, overhead and underground electric collection lines, and a connection to an adjacent 138-kilovolt electric transmission line that leads to a nearby power substation.

In an online statement, Arche said the Fulton County location “was chosen because of the availability and quality of solar resources, proximity to the bulk power transmission system, proximity to major transportation routes, topography, land use, limited sensitive ecological and cultural resources, and landowner participation.”

Jon Rupp, a Fulton County commissioner who said he attended or observed all public proceedings associated with Arche’s permit application before the Ohio Power Siting Board, said some nearby residents challenged the project, but Arche strove to accommodate them with commitments to setbacks and landscaped screening.

“The company did a good job. They provided ample time and [opportunity] to oppose the project,” Mr. Rupp said last week. “I don’t know if satisfied is the right word, but they seemed to quell the [neighbors’] concerns.”

Lightsource bp, based in London, began in 2010 as a solar startup company, Lightsource Renewable Energy, and changed its name when British Petroleum bought a 50 percent stake in 2018. Arche initially belonged to 7X Energy, of Austin, but it sold that subsidiary and others to Lightsource bp.

The only private-citizen comments on the state siting board’s docket were more general in nature.

A Gregg Jess, whose statement did not cite his place of residence, said Ohio and its lawmakers “need to take California’s blackout experience as a real testimony that we are being sold a bill of goods” regarding solar and wind energy.

And Kyle Comers, of Delta, Ohio, said the solar farm would be incompatible with Fulton County’s rural nature and be an eyesore that “would render the ground unusable for agricultural purposes and would destroy natural wildlife habitat.”

Company representatives said, however, that most of the land involved is cultivated and therefore not undisturbed habitat, whereas the land beneath the solar panels could attract nesting birds and other small animals.

The solar company agreed with the commissioners to provide annual payments in lieu of taxes of $7,500 per megawatt, or just over $800,000 annually to the county and local taxing districts that include the Fayette schools.

And Arche’s Ohio Power Siting Board permit obliges the company to maintain a bond for the cost of dismantling the project once its solar panels reach the ends of their useful lives, including removal of all structures down to four feet below the surface.

It was not clear who the company’s solar-panel supplier will be. In response to participants in the OPSB hearings, which were conducted online because of the coronavirus pandemic, Arche said it did not expect First Solar panels to be available for the project.

But a Frequently Asked Questions page on the Lightsource bp project website said First Solar would in fact be the panel supplier.

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