BG and county may team up for ‘community solar’ field

Photo of Bowling Green solar field at Carter and Newton roads, taken by Brian Bushong

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

Bowling Green and Wood County may be teaming up on bright idea for the area.

The city has approached the Wood County commissioners about using county land for another solar field. There are currently 70 open acres on the north side of East Gypsy Lane Road, between Interstate 75 and Wood Lane. Fifty acres are owned by the county and 20 by the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

If the solar field becomes a reality, it would likely be a “community solar” project – which means Bowling Green residents and businesses could sign up to be part of the project and get their electricity from the solar field, said Brian O’Connell, director of public utilities for the city.

That would make this different from the 165-acre solar field recently constructed on city land at Carter and Newton roads northeast of Bowling Green. Bowling Green gets a portion of the power generated at that solar field – enough to supply nearly 5 percent of the city’s energy needs.

By building a “community solar” project, all of the energy created at the proposed site could be used to power Bowling Green, O’Connell said.

The city’s proposal was presented to the Wood County commissioners last week. It would require the county to commit the acreage to the project for 30 years. The property is currently rented out as farmland.

The commissioners were interested in the idea, said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar.

“They said they were willing to consider it. We don’t see any county building boom” on the East Gypsy Lane property, Kalmar said.

The county may be interested in using some of the solar power for its facilities on East Gypsy Lane.

“We would certainly be willing to talk to them about it,” Kalmar said.

The lease proposal from the city has been sent to the county prosecutor’s office for review.

O’Connell stressed that the proposal is still in the discussion stage, with the city board of public utilities and the city council not taking any action.

The first step to building a solar field is finding a suitable site, O’Connell said. “You need property to build this on. We looked around at available facilities,” he said. “There’s still a lot of details and a lot of work to do on it.”

“It’s purely discussion for now,” O’Connell said.

The East Gypsy Lane site is appealing because it is close to existing city facilities that can be tied into. There would be no need to build several miles of power poles and wires. “We have the infrastructure near there,” he said.

The “community solar” concept is a growing trend across the nation, according to O’Connell. Bowling Green residents and businesses could sign up to be part of the project – on a purely voluntary basis.

“It’s a way that people can be more engaged in a solar project,” he said. “People who are interested can join.”

The difficult part of a “community solar” project is figuring out the arrangements for the sale of the energy, O’Connell said.

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