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Published: Tuesday, 10/5/2010

Ohio solar farm slated to bring clean energy, jobs


COLUMBUS, Ohio — A solar farm that can produce enough electricity to power 25,000 homes will be built on a former strip mine adjacent to a wildlife conservancy, Gov. Ted Strickland announced Tuesday.

The southeast Ohio project will bring about 600 jobs, half of them temporary construction jobs.

Strickland and other Democrats who are facing tough re-election campaigns because of the state's struggling economy trumpeted the project. Strickland said the farm would be built with solar parts made in Ohio and would power “Ohio homes, Ohio businesses, Ohio jobs and Ohio's future.”

Spanish manufacturers Prius Energy S.L. and Isofoton plan to employ 300 people to make the nearly 240,000 solar panels needed to outfit the 49.9-megawatt farm, dubbed the Turning Point Solar project. Another 300 temporary construction jobs are expected.

American Electric Power Co. Inc. has agreed to purchase power from the facility for 20 years to help fulfill state minimums for renewable energy.

The site is next to the nearly 10,000-acre conservancy known as The Wilds. The solar field will cover about 500 acres of reclaimed land that once was home to Big Muskie, then one of the world's largest mobile earth-moving machines.

Ohio two years ago enacted a law that altered the way electricity is regulated. Among its provisions, utilities are required to generate a portion of their electricity through alternative energy sources, including solar.

Strickland said the state now has policies that will attract investment.

“That's what we've done,” he said. “Because in Ohio, our laws created demand. Our policies sped research and development, and now these companies are ready to start filling orders.”

Officials estimated the solar farm would cost $250 million, though an overall price tag has yet to be determined. Developers are applying for federal and state funds.

AEP officials and Strickland in August dedicated a 10-megawatt solar field in northwest Ohio.

Strickland's campaign on Tuesday released an ad that said the governor was creating new jobs in alternative energy and that criticized his Republican opponent, former congressman John Kasich, for supporting free trade agreements.

Kasich, who has a slight lead in the governor's race in most polls, blames Strickland for failing to turn around Ohio's economy and says the state has lost 380,000 jobs since Strickland took office in 2007.

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