A Chicago-based company is moving forward with plans to construct another solar farm in northern Union County.
Officials from Invenergy met recently with the Union County Commissioners to discuss a proposed solar farm to be built in York, Liberty and Taylor townships.
The proposed Cadence Solar Energy Center is a 275-megawatt solar-powered electric generation facility.
Erin Saul, on the renewable energy team with Invenergy, said the company already has about 5,100 acres under lease in Union County. The majority of the land is south of Route 47, between Yearsly and Storms roads and north of Route 347.
She explained that not all that land will be used, but the company secures more than it needs and determines what parcels are best. She said all the land will be leased, but the company does pay more for the acres it uses than land it doesn’t. She said land that isn’t used can continue to be farmed.
Officials said the exact details of the project have not been determined. Saul said the exact size and energy production of the site would depend on the needs of the end buyer.
“Why do we want to take valuable farm land and allow that use to be converted to this proposed use?” Union County Commissioner Steve Stolte asked.
Saul explained that land owners decide what to do with their land. She said the company supports a landowner’s “right to do what they wish with their privately-owned land.”
“It is an individual decision for each land owner we work with,” Saul said. “We approach folks and explain the opportunity and then ultimately come to an agreement.”
She added, “we are working with our individual landowners and respecting their individual decisions to make these decisions for the land they own and think about their families for the next couple of decades, what is best for them as a farmer or as an individual trying to think through the future of their family.”
Saul said next month Invenergy plans to apply for a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need with the Ohio Power Sitting Board (OPSB). She said she anticipates that permit will be granted in the second quarter of 2021.
The Ohio Revised Code provides a general exemption from local zoning for major utility facilities so local zoning does not apply to a facility that holds an OPSB certificate.
Officials said they expect to begin construction in the first quarter of 2022, expect to be online, operational and generating power by the end of 2023.
Saul said the project will require 700 temporary workers during construction and once the project is complete, the company will employ three maintenance workers.
Officials said the facility will have a lifespan of 35 to 40 years.
“We estimate that there will be an investment of $141 million in Union County through new taxes and land owner payments over the life of the project,” Saul said.
Officials said they met with the county last year and have since met with officials from North Union School District and Tolles Career and Technical Center. Saul said the company has joined the Union County Chamber of Commerce.
“In the weeks to come, we plan for additional community engagement, evaluation of additional sponsorship, partnership and membership opportunities,” Saul said.
Stolte asked if the company was planning to ask for any type of tax abatement for the project. Officials said they do plan to ask for an abatement and will likely have that conversation in the future.
Ryan VanPortfliet with Invenergy said the company already has two projects under construction in Ohio. He said company officials recently met with the Hardin County Commissioners regarding the project there. He encouraged Union County’s commissioners to reach out to Hardin County officials and view the site.
Stolte asked if the Cadence Solar Energy Center is connected in any way to the Acciona Energy solar plant planned for the county.
“We are a separate effort than the other developers,” Saul said.
The Acciona Energy project is a planned 25 MW solar powered electric generating facility on about 3,500 acres near the intersection of routes 31 and 739 in York and Washington townships. Construction of that facility is set to begin in the first quarter of 2022. Acciona officials said it could be scheduled to be in service by the first quarter of 2023.
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