During Wednesday’s meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners, one of the resolutions approved was a qualified energy project application for certification of Palomino Solar, LLC.
Palomino Solar is a proposed solar electric generating project that, if approved, would join Willowbrook, Hecate Highland and New Market Solar I & II in the photovoltaic stampede in Highland County.
Just across the Highland/Brown County line on Greenbush East Road near Buford, construction continues on the Hillcrest solar facility, one of three solar farms currently under construction in Ohio.
According to information provided by the commissioner’s office, the Palomino solar project is planned to be a 200-megawatt solar farm that will occupy roughly 1,300 acres in Union, Penn and Dodson townships in northwest Highland County.
The builder of the proposed complex, Innergex of Quebec, Canada, gave an estimated construction start date of Nov. 1, 2022 with a completion date targeted for Dec. 31, 2023.
Polling data provided by the Utility Scale Solar Energy Coalition (USSEC) showed a majority of Ohio voters — 76 percent — supported not only renewable energy, but also solar development and welcomed it in their community.
Jason Rafeld is executive director of USSEC, and said the poll revealed that Ohioans supported renewable energy such as solar in overwhelming numbers.
“Solar, which Ohioans see as a crucial part of our state’s energy future, will continue to bring economic prosperity to communities across our state,” he said.
USSEC is a member-based trade organization representing utility-scale solar developers, manufacturers and industry leaders throughout Ohio.
The poll also showed that Ohioans stood firmly behind their local farmers, who are leasing out their private land for solar development in order to support their income with reliable revenue.
The vast majority of voters — 84 percent — believe property owners have the right to do what they want with their land, even if that means moving away from traditional uses of farmland, the survey said.
Other takeaways from the recently conducted poll:
• Seventy-one percent said that schools are in need of additional funding. The proposed Palomino solar farm would be of direct benefit tax dollarwise to the Lynchburg-Clay, East Clinton and Hillsboro City school districts, according to Innergex’s application.
• Sixty-seven percent felt it was important to bring new sources of clean energy to the state.
• Sixty-five percent believe Ohio should be working to attract major businesses to the state, like Google, Facebook and Amazon Web Services.
As previously reported, Rafeld told The Times-Gazette that landowners, the majority of which are farmers, were very supportive when approached by solar energy companies because of the money involved and the reality of a guaranteed return.
“This is an opportunity for farm families to keep their farms in their family,” he said. “They can make a good profit off their land, and it’s reliable — you’re getting a contracted-for amount of money this year, and that same amount for the next 29 years after that.”
He said another reason solar developers were approaching farmers was that their land had already been disturbed by farming, and he said for that reason, no forests were being cut down and no wet lands were being compromised, and the land that formerly produced a crop would now produce electricity.
Susan Munroe, director of economic development for Chambers of Innovation and Clean Energy, said that chambers of commerce across the nation, including Ohio, were seeing clean energy companies join their memberships and making significant impacts to local economies.
“They are making serious contributions to the local revenues and economic activity in their communities, along with dollars that school systems and local governments otherwise would not receive,” she said. “The findings throughout this survey of community support for solar are a direct result of the meaningful economic benefits that utility-scale solar companies are bringing to Ohio. Utility-scale solar companies are putting Ohioans to work, investing in our rural communities, and supplying power that our businesses demand.”
According to the Ohio Power Siting Board process flowchart, Innergex is in the very initial stages of a 13-step process of getting the Palomino solar farm project approved and built.
The next steps in the flowchart will be a preapplication conference with the OPSB, followed by a notice that will be placed in The Times-Gazette that detailing when an information meeting will be held to gain public comment on the project.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.