Solar fields are one step closer to warming up and sending energy to Wellington residents.
Ground could be broken by the end of this month if village council approves plans.
The planning commission approved plans Feb. 24 with the expectation that the company behind the project, Advanced Distributed Generation, completes a few outstanding requirements.
The next step is for village council to review the plans at its March 7 meeting.
The commission also got a good look at the solar fields plan presented by ADG president John Witte. The 20-acre solar field is going to be located on the southern end of town off Jones Road near the Wellington Reservation.
There, a field of 11,000 solar panels will rise in rows harvesting energy from the sun. Each panel will be on a mounting frame and rotate on a single axis from east to west to follow the sun, Witte said.
Panels will be about three-and-a-half feet by six-and-a half feet and stand about three feet off the ground with low-growing vegetation beneath.
Each panel will be connected by a complicated wiring strategy to link to inverters, which convert the direct current generated by the sun to alternating current.
Preparation for the site means trees will be cleared, stumps will be hauled away, the ground will be graded as flat as possible, and steel pylons will be driven eight-feet into the ground.
By the end of April the first equipment should be staged at the site.
ADG, with 20 years experience installing grid connected solar systems, will build Wellington’s model.
American Electric Power will own it and Wellington will reap the electricity harvested from the solar field. The energy generated will be sold back to the village in a purchase power agreement of 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Rates are locked in for 20 years.
AEP bears the cost of installing the system. They lease the land from the village and make money back on renewable energy credits.
“This has the potential to be really good for the village, the stability of our supply, and the level of our rates, so I am really delighted to see this coming along,” said council member Guy Wells. The village will save $11,000 a month in transmission costs with the solar field, Wells said.
A memo from Poggemeyer Design Group outlined 18 items that need to be addressed including location of sewer, water, and power lines; location of the flood plain; and a stormwater pollution prevention and erosion control plan. Tree stumps also need to be removed. Finally, the construction plans need to also be submitted before construction.
Al Kimmich made sure of that.
“I don’t see any construction plans,” said Kimmich, a member of the zoning board of appeals. “Over a period of a couple years this has been going on and I don’t see any construction plans or electrical plans. This looks like to me this is all verbal and I don’t know how anybody can be well informed if they are just dealing with verbal construction plans. Planning has always had construction plans to look at for their decisions.”
Before a shovel is in the ground, the construction plans will be submitted and approved, the commission assured Kimmich.
He still questioned the entire project: “Is solar really viable for the Wellington area?” He noted there are only about 80 sunny days in the area and only about four hours of sunshine daily on average.
“Solar is not a bad thing,” he said. “Solar does have its place where the sun shines all day and there are hundreds of acres of wasteland.”
He also cited concerns about the environmental impact, the fact that the field will only produce 20 percent of power needed in the community, and committing to a 20-year contract. “Who knows what will happen in 20 years with cheap gas?” he said.
Witte said this is one of the first solar projects AEP will undertake. The state is requiring utilities to buy solar and retire coal-fired power plants, he said.
“There are incentives to build solar and, at this point, the cost of installation is a good investment for utilities in Ohio,” Witte said.
“It’s time to says let’s go with it and let council decide what’s going on,” said Tom Cleary, planning commission member.
Catherine Gabe can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @ReporterGabe on Twitter.
Photos by Catherine Gabe | Wellington Enterprise
John Witte of Advanced Distributed Generation shows the Wellington planning commission the site plan for solar fields that will soon rise up on the village’s south side.