BG pursues second solar field – for community power

The solar site on Carter Road has 85,000 panels

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

The City of Bowling Green sees a bright future for more solar power. The problem is finding big open areas for another solar field.

The city could use some land it has purchased over the years for economic development. But Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell pointed out that while solar fields generate green energy, they do not generate long-term jobs.

The city could use some of the 70 acres left at its current solar field on Carter Road, northeast of the city. But that property may be needed for land application of biosolids from the wastewater treatment plant.

“With a solar project, you need a lot of land,” O’Connell said to the board of utilities Monday evening.

So the city has approached the Wood County commissioners about using county land for another solar field. There are currently 71.5 open acres on the north side of East Gypsy Lane Road, between Interstate 75 and Wood Lane. Approximately 51.5 acres are owned by the county and 20 by the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The land is currently rented out as farmland.

Both Wood County and the Board of Developmental Disabilities are interested in the solar project, O’Connell said.

And they aren’t alone, according to Mayor Dick Edwards, who commended O’Connell and Daryl Stockburger, assistant director of the city utilities department, for pursuing an agreement to use the county land.

“There’s real strong community interest in another solar project,” Edwards said.

A three-year contract for the acreage was presented to the board of public utilities Monday evening.

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, O’Connell said.

That would make this different from the 165-acre solar field recently constructed on city land at Carter and Newton roads. 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 commissioners are interested in the idea, according to 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 last year.

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 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,” O’Connell 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.”

“Instead of putting solar on rooftops, this could be done at a lower cost,” O’Connell said.

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