By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The future is getting brighter for the proposed community solar project in Bowling Green.
On Thursday, the Wood County Commissioners entered an agreement with the city to allow 50 acres of county land to be studied as a potential site for a solar field. The Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities has also agreed to allow 20 acres of its neighboring land to be part of the project.
The 70 acres sit on the north side of East Gypsy Lane Road, between Interstate 75 and Wood Lane facilities. The property is currently leased for farming.
“This is meant to be a community project,” said Daryl Stockburger, assistant director of Bowling Green Public Utilities. “Everybody is talking about doing their best to make this succeed.”
The next step will now be to get the approval from the city’s Board of Public Utilities and then from City Council.
Both of those entities have already shown strong support for solar power, by backing the city’s solar field on Carter and Newton roads. That field, at 165 acres, is the largest solar field in Ohio. 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.
This new project, on East Gypsy Lane, would be different in that it would be a community solar field, which means city residents and businesses could sign up to be a part of the project and get electricity from the kilowatts generated at the solar field, according to Bowling Green Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell.
All of the energy created at the proposed site could be used to power Bowling Green. The community field could produce up to 10 megawatts, which is about half of the power generated at the Carter Road site. The panels would likely rotate with the sun during the day to maximize the energy generated.
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.
Bowling Green officials have been looking for open space for more solar panels.
“Peaking energy is important to us,” O’Connell said earlier this year. “We’re looking for new ways to do more solar. But finding large parcels of property close to the city is difficult.”
Then the city found that big chunk of land right in its backyard – and close to its city electric service.
“This would be an ideal location for this,” Stockburger said.
The agreement with the county commissioners gives the city up to three years to determine if the East Gypsy Lane site is an economically sound location for a community solar field, Stockburger said on Thursday.
“If the numbers all work out, all of our customers would be able to sign up,” he said.
The county will retain use of the land until the time when it might be developed. If the acreage is converted to a solar field and can no longer be farmed, the city will pay the county $300 an acre per year.
Any solar deal will likely last about 30 years. Then the decision would be made to continue with the solar arrays or remove them and revert the acreage back to farmland.