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State’s largest solar project to be in B.G.

Ohio’s energy landscape changing

BOWLING GREEN — Sixteen of Ohio’s 25 largest solar projects are in northwest Ohio and — four months from now — the largest will be in Bowling Green, which for years was best known as the place which launched the state into the modern era of utility-scale wind turbines.

The solar industry’s coming of age was recognized at a statewide Green Energy Ohio conference Thursday at the Stone Ridge Golf Club in Bowling Green. About 110 business leaders, educators, lobbyists, and others attended.

Solar’s inroads come as Ohio’s energy landscape and that of America in general are undergoing historic change, but also historic challenges.

Coal-fired power has the lowest share of the energy market since World War II.

While the Obama Administration has promoted a mix of natural gas and renewable energy to lower the nation’s climate-altering carbon footprint, there’s still a lot of anxiety about what conservatives in the Ohio General Assembly might do this fall with the two-year freeze on Ohio’s renewable energy mandates expiring this year.

“Ohio’s changing rapidly,” Luke Sulfridge, program director for OH SUN, a statewide group that promotes community solar projects, said during a conversation with a couple of attendees during a break. “This will be an interesting year.”

Bowling Green’s commitment to renewable energy will surge from the construction of its 20-megawatt solar field that is to be completed Dec. 31.

That solar field will surpass the 12-megawatt Wyandot Solar Farm to become Ohio’s largest.

Daryl Stockburger, Bowling Green assistant utilities director, received applause during his presentation when he said the project — being co-developed by NextEra Energy and AMP — would bring that city’s mix of energy from renewable sources to 38.16 percent when completed, an increase from its current level of 12.04 percent.

Statewide, that percentage is a mere 1.5 percent.

The Bowling Green project is the largest of an 80-megawatt initiative called DG AMP Solar that is to include 26 sites, mostly in Ohio. It is being built on 165 of 315 acres the city owns along Carter Road northeast of Bowling Green, Mr. Stockburger said.

Much of the conference was devoted to promoting community-based solar projects, a concept gaining in popularity compared to rooftop installations.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, no more than 27 percent of residential roofs are believed to be suitable for solar panels because of the direction they face, their slope, their weight capacity, or other factors.

Community solar projects from the tiny village of Minster, Ohio, to Clyde, Ohio, were discussed.

Minster is home to a major Dannon yogurt facility, while Clyde is home to one of Whirlpool Corp.’s largest dishwasher factories.

“The reason I got into solar 15 years ago was because I thought local investment would be what would turn our country around,” Don Harrod, Minster village administrator, said. “Everyone should have a chance to participate in community solar.”

Teresa Smith, business development manager for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, said the port board has millions of dollars available to loan for renewable energy projects, usually at rates of 5 percent over 15 years.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average annual carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now exceeds 400 parts per million for the first time in at least 800,000 years.

“The big picture isn’t how much solar we can put in, how much wind power we can put in, but how much we can reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” Mr. Leontis said.

Climate change “is not a question of 20 years from now,” he later added. “It’s happening right now.”

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com, 419-724-6079, or via Twitter @ecowriterohio.

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