American Electric Power announced plans to build a 500-acre, 50-megawatt solar project on a former strip mine site in Southeastern Ohio yesterday. The solar plant will be built by two Spanish solar companies – Isofoton and Prius Energy S.L. – and the power will be purchased by AEP of Columbus; the partnership allows for the largest solar array east of the Rockies to take shape in Ohio.
The project, known as Turning Point Solar, is expected to generate between 600 and 700 jobs in the area, with an estimated 300 of the jobs expected to be permanent manufacturing jobs.
Area media were quick to pick up the story, with The Plain Dealer focusing on the legal groundwork that was laid previously to allow for and encourage such a development to take place. John Funk writes “Lawmakers recently eliminated Ohio’s tangible personal property tax and real property tax for advanced and renewable energy project facilities, a crucial tax cut for the development.” (See Friday’s blog post for more details).
Funk also explains the powerful role of Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard in driving the market for solar and wind in the state:
Under Ohio’s 2008 utility law, the state’s major power companies must by 2025 generate12.5 percent of the power they sell in Ohio with renewable technologies. That law created a demand for solar and wind manufacturers.
Experts estimate that Ohio’s utilities or solar developers will have to install solar systems with a total capacity to generate at least 300 megawatts of power by 2025. Some estimates are even higher. That will require millions of solar panels.
The Zanesville Times-Recorder highlighted the job creation aspects associated with the project, and the implications for the counties in which the project is located: “Of the 700 jobs, 300 are expected to begin as early as 2011 in Muskingum and Noble counties. Muskingum County was at 12.0 percent unemployment in August, and Noble County was at 13.3 percent. The state percentage was 10.1.” Significantly, the Zanesville Times-Recorder also reports that Isofoton and Prius Energy have committed to building the 250,000 panels and trackers needed for the solar farm in Ohio and are considering building in Appalachian Ohio in particular.
Zane State College President Paul Brown described his reaction to this big news to the Zanesville Times-Recorder:
“This is a big investment in our area. Appalachia and particularly southeast Ohio is ripe for development right now and I think this project is going to be the first of many projects that transforms the region into what I call progressive Appalachia,” Brown said, referring to a forward-thinking, cutting-edge area.
“We’re prepared to take a leadership role in this and train and get together with the two international manufacturing companies that are going to support this solar field project,”Brown said. “We’ll be working with those companies to determine the needs in training and then we’ll provide that training.”