OSU Extension Plays Key Role in Solar Energy Development in Ohio

August 30, 2010

For a video about Wyandot Solar, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hio4IMwTY2Y

UPPER SANDUSKY, Ohio  The dedication of Ohios largest solar energy farm in Upper Sandusky demonstrates how Ohio State University Extension can play an invaluable role in the development of renewable energy projects, economic activity and jobs throughout the state.

The Wyandot Solar facility was unveiled on Aug. 19 at a ceremony attended by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Ohio State President Gordon Gee and representatives from New Jersey-based PSEG Solar Source, which owns the project.

At 12 megawatts of electricity generation capacity, the farm is one of the largest of its kind east of the Mississippi. Its more than 159,000 solar panels, ground-mounted on 80 acres of former farmland, can yield enough clean energy to keep the lights on and air conditioner humming at more than 9,000 homes when the sun is shining. Additionally, the project will help eliminate 14,030 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

The same way it supports field-crop and other farmers with their operations across the state, OSU Extension is one of the key reasons Wyandot Solar became a reality in this northwest Ohio rural community.

“It was January 2009 when I took the first call from Juwi Solar (a Boulder, Col.-based company that designed and built the facility) asking if Wyandot County would be interested in a solar power generation project, said Eric Romich, an OSU Extension economic development and regional planning educator who also leads the Wyandot County Office of Economic Development. “I looked outside at the winter weather. It didnt sound like something that could done here.

But the cold Ohio winter was no impediment at all. Wyandot County officials quickly warmed up to the idea, proactively pursuing an agreement with Juwi to develop the project. In the process, Romich said, the county looked to OSU Extension for fact-finding, studying the viability of such a novel enterprise, and organizing public forums.

“OSU Extension has played a very vital role in this project, Wyandot County Commissioner Mike Wheeler said. “We are in an agricultural-based area that had a definite need and all the items essential for a renewable energy project of this kind. What we lacked in the Commissioners office was the expertise to convey that message properly. Extensions expertise and wealth of knowledge is unbelievable and helped us do that. We found a wonderful marriage with OSU Extension. And we have a direct result here today.

Construction began in the fall of 2009 on a county-owned field adjacent to the Wyandot County airport. By then, PSEG had acquired the project from Juwi. A local company, Vaughan Industries of Carey, Ohio, won the contract to build the facility. Some 80-100 local jobs were created during the construction phase, with those workers receiving training in green energy technologies. Additionally, three area high schools have had small solar energy systems installed for science education and technology training.

The output generated by the solar farm is being delivered to the grid by Columbus-based American Electric Power (AEP), which entered into a 20-year power-purchase agreement with Wyandot Solar.

Romich said the lessons learned from working on this project will makes OSU Extension an invaluable resource for communities across Ohio looking to take advantage of renewable energy development opportunities.

“We now have a good understanding of what renewable energy developers are looking for, so we can help communities evaluate their assets, determine what kind of energy those assets would support, and understand what sites would be beneficial or counterproductive, Romich explained. “From there we can facilitate the outreach component, looking at whether folks would be supportive of that kind of a project. Ultimately, the goal is to help Ohio communities get from concept to completion as fast as possible.

In 2008, Ohio passed legislation mandating that 12.5 percent of the states electricity must come from renewable sources. The new law is spurring the creation of green energy projects such as Wyandot Solar and opening the door to new economic development opportunities for urban and rural communities alike. Knowledge of this emergent industry will be key as cities and counties seek to attract developers.

“The demand for renewable energy projects will continue to grow in Ohio because the demand for energy is increasing and there are policies in place facilitating these kinds of projects, Romich pointed out. “OSU Extension is filling a need that exists in the state to help address these new opportunities.

OSU Extension is the outreach arm of Ohio States College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

-30-

Author(s): 
Mauricio Espinoza
Source(s): 
Eric Romich