With just over 182 megawatts of solar power installed across the state Ohio hasn’t been the biggest market for solar power, but that might be set to change. Last week, Ohio’s American Electric Power (AEP) proposed two solar projects, totaling 400 megawatts (MWs) that will more than triple the amount of solar in the state if approved.
The state has a relatively weak renewable energy portfolio standard, requiring that utilities get 12.5 percent of their electric generation from renewable energy by 2026, but its has potential go beyond that. A recent report issued by Powering Ohio called on the state to reach 2.2 gigawatts of solar power renewable energy by 2030, which it said would create 800 direct jobs and over 1,700 indirect jobs annually while boosting the state’s gross domestic product by $1 billion a year.
"AEP Ohio customers have expressed their support for renewable generation resources built in Ohio," said Julie Sloat, AEP Ohio president and chief operating officer. The utility found that nearly three-quarters of its residential consumers were willing to support renewable energy even if meant higher electric bills. And fully 89 percent of residents and 75 percent of small commercial companies wanted AEP to use renewable energy produced in Ohio.
"AEP Ohio is taking a bold step to secure Ohio's energy future by enabling the development of 400 MW of new solar generation, including the largest solar facility in the state,” Sloat said. “We have listened to our customers and are working each day to provide them with the energy products and services they want. The addition of these solar projects to Ohio's generation mix will help ensure our customers are receiving their energy from a reliable, secure and diverse mix of resources.” The utility now has a pipeline of 900 MWs of renewable energy.
The projects were proposed in Highland County and are the 300 MW Highland Solar farm and 100 MW Willowbrook Solar farm and are being built by Hecate Energy Highland LLC and Willowbrook Solar LLC, respectively, according to AEP. If the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approves the projects the utility said they should be operational by the end of 2021.
The projects were selected through a competitive bidding process and, if approved would add about 28 cents per month to the electric bill of a customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month—about $3.36 a year. However, AEP said that the projects, which are under 20-year power purchase agreements, will generate $200 million in customer savings compared with projected costs of power from other sources in the future.
During their construction the projects are expected to create nearly 4,000 jobs. They will generate $24 million in state tax revenue and $6.7 million in local tax revenue, according to AEP. The utility also noted that the developers are committed to giving veterans preference for construction jobs on the projects, and to use local manufacturers where possible. Such manufacturers could include First Solar, which makes solar panels in Ohio and is tripling its manufacturing capacity at the facility and hiring 500 people in the state.Tweet