The company behind the proposed Fayette Solar solar array system held an open house Thursday evening to acquaint those in Greenfield and Madison Township with its plans for a 47.5-megawatt solar panel farm, of which 7.5 megawatts of photovoltaic cells are slated to be built just one-half mile north of Greenfield.
The open house was staffed with personnel from National Grid Renewables, some of whom appeared during the April 28 virtual public hearing for another of NGR’s solar projects, that being the 117-megawatt Dodson Creek facility the company wants to build just southeast of Lynchburg.
State Rep. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro) was in Lynchburg last Thursday to hear what were, at times, heated comments from local citizens opposed to the growing number of solar panel farms in the vicinity of their properties.
Wilkin announced Friday that he will return to his hometown to conduct individual office hours with his constituents from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, May 14 at the Lynchburg Administration Building.
At Thursday’s open house, NGR senior developer Darek Hasek told The Times-Gazette that utility-scale solar projects such as Fayette Solar don’t fall under the auspices of the Ohio Power Siting Board since they are under 50 megawatts, but the company still wanted to be a “good neighbor” and provide information and reassurance to the community.
“We were founded by a farmer in Southern Minnesota and have roots that go way back to rural America,” Hasek said. “He became intrigued with renewable energy and viewed it as a way to invest in rural America, and started the company on the concept of being ‘farmer-friendly.’”
In responding to some of the concerns aired during Thursday’s Lynchburg meeting, he said NGR wanted to hear from neighboring property owners and from that, incorporate its feedback into their project designs.
“If there’s a neighbor with concerns, not unlike those over in Lynchburg and into Clinton County, we’d like to meet with them and say, ‘Look, we know this is going to look a bit different, but we’re willing to spend the money and put up the screening to minimize the landscape impact, and strike a balance between property owner rights and being a good neighbor to everyone else,’” Hasek said.
One of NGR’s neighbors is Greenfield City Manager Todd Wilkin, who said he was a strong proponent of property rights, but had to weigh that with the concerns he had regarding the villages water supply, which he said was provided by aquifers located just to the south of the Highland County element of the facility.
“What we don’t want to have happen is, say 25 years from now, somebody comes in and tells us our water is tainted,” he said. “And in talking with them at this open house, one of my questions had to do with the EPA testing component, and they assured me that these are the solar panels that have passed that testing.”
Hasek said the testing involved destroying some of the same type of photovoltaic panels that would be used at Fayette Solar, and after being broken up, were then buried in the ground to determine if any chemicals would leach into the soil.
“As it turns out, they don’t,” he said. “That makes me feel better as it relates to our water quality.”
His other concern had to do with the future growth of the village, since he said Greenfield would be “hemmed in” with Fayette Solar to the north and another NGR project, Ross County Solar, to the south.
“When Mr. McArthur named it Greenfield after the green fields, we’re going to be losing that,” he said. “When I stand at our industrial park now and look out toward Bainbridge or Paint Creek, it’s beautiful, but when these things are built we’ll be looking out over solar panels.”
He said it would entail more strategic planning about Greenfield’s growth in the future, which was the reason for his attendance at Thursday’s NGR open house. But he added he thought company representatives did a good job in answering his questions.
“When we come into a community, we want to be a good neighbor,” Hasek said. “Our goal is to own and operate these facilities long-term, we’re going to be around for a while as these projects move forward, and that’s not just for the development cycle, but for construction and long-term operations many years into the future.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.