AEP proposes 2 solar facilities for Highland County


Pending approval, Highland Co. plants to bring $6.7m to local economy

By David Wright - dwright@timesgazette.com



AEP Ohio has filed a proposal with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to support the development of two solar facilities expected to generate $6.7 million in local tax revenue and save customers approximately $200 million over the next 20 years, according to a news release.

“We’re excited about the projects and the impact that they’re going to have on the Appalachian region in Ohio and on Highland County,” AEP Ohio spokesman Scott Blake told The Times-Gazette on Friday. “I hope we can see these facilities move forward in the very near future. We do have to get approval from PUCO, so there is still some process ahead of us.”

A news release issued Thursday says one facility, to be constructed by Hecate Energy Highland LLC, will be 300 megawatts and the other, developed by Willowbrook Solar LLC, will be 100 megawatts.

AEP Ohio has secured two 20-year Renewable Energy Purchase Agreements for the power produced at the two facilities, according to the release.

Both projects are expected to be operational by the end of 2021 pending regulatory approval, according to the release.

When Blake was asked where the facilities would be built if approved, he said he did not have that information.

Highland County Commissioner Jeff Duncan said he has been told one of the facilities is planned for U.S. Route 62 south of the Old Y restaurant, and the other may be in the Mowrystown area.

“They’re still in the stages of trying to talk to the landowners and get land secured for that facility,” he said.

According to the release, construction of the facilities is expected to support nearly 4,000 jobs in total and contribute $24 million in new state tax revenue and $6.7 million in local tax revenue.

Duncan said the local economic impact “would be a substantial boost for the county,” but he added that a majority of the cashflow would likely go toward the townships and school districts in which the plants are constructed.

According to the release, the developers have committed to securing building materials from Ohio manufacturers, and military veterans will be given hiring preference for construction-related jobs.

The plants are expected to save customers about $200 million over the course of AEP Ohio’s 20-year contract based on projected increases in electric costs, according to the release. Even so, customers using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity can expect to pay an extra 28 cents per month on their electric bill.

“We’re locking in the price of the power right now,” Blake said. “So as the cost of power is projected to increase in the future, customers would save because we’ve locked in that low price.”

The projects were chosen following a competitive request for proposal process, according to the release, but Duncan, who attended a meeting last week regarding one of the sites and was on a conference call regarding the other on Thursday, said representatives from both companies never mentioned AEP Ohio being involved.

“We’ve never been officially notified,” he said. “They both indicated to us that they didn’t have an end user yet. So if this is coming from AEP, they didn’t indicate that to us… I’m sure they’re going to bring us up to speed eventually.”

According to the release, a recent survey of AEP Ohio customers revealed “overwhelming support” for the use of more renewable energy in Ohio. Nearly three-quarters of residential customers said they were willing to support renewable energy through increased bills. Customers also indicated that they feel it is important for that energy to be produced in Ohio, with 89 percent of residential and 75 percent of small commercial customers surveyed indicating they feel it is at least “moderately important” that AEP Ohio makes great use of renewable energy produced in Ohio, according to the release.

AEP Ohio committed to pursuing 900 MW of renewable generation resources, built in Ohio, in a 2016 agreement approved by the PUCO and a diverse group of stakeholders, the release said. This commitment was supported with the PUCO’s approval of AEP Ohio’s Electric Security Plan earlier this year.

“AEP Ohio customers have expressed their support for renewable generation resources built in Ohio,” said Julie Sloat, AEP Ohio president and chief operating officer. “AEP Ohio is taking a bold step to secure Ohio’s energy future by enabling the development of 400 MW of new solar generation, including the largest solar facility in the state. We have listened to our customers and are working each day to provide them with the energy products and services they want. The addition of these solar projects to Ohio’s generation mix will help ensure our customers are receiving their energy from a reliable, secure and diverse mix of resources.”

AEP Ohio delivers electricity to nearly 1.5 million customers of AEP’s subsidiary Ohio Power Co. in Ohio. AEP Ohio is based in Gahanna and is a unit of American Electric Power.

Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570.

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Pending approval, Highland Co. plants to bring $6.7m to local economy

By David Wright

dwright@timesgazette.com