CIRCLEVILLE — About 40 people attended the first meeting of the year for the Jackson Township Trustees to express their feelings about the proposed solar farm project in the township.
The project in question is being developed by Geenex Solar and EDF Renewables, who are working together, and is being called Chipmunk Solar Farm.
The project is located to the north of Williamsport in Jackson, Monroe and Deer Creek Townships. The project is a 400 MW solar project that is estimated to generate enough energy to power approximately 75,000 homes. The project is the fourth project with a case number with the Ohio Power Siting Board in Pickaway County.
Before opening up the floor to comments, the trustees told the crowd they had passed a resolution against the proposal at a previous meeting, something they said that would be sent to the Ohio Power Siting Board, which is the only entity that has a say on the matter. The Jackson Township Trustees have no direct yes or no vote.
“We determined the construction of industrial solar fields would not benefit, nor be conducive to the agrarian-type of lifestyle enjoyed by our residents,” Jay Welsh, trustee and newly elected chair of the board, read.
“We further acknowledge that the economic engine at this time is agriculture. The interruption of that base would have negative impacts for the township and its residents.”
Listing other reasons, including loss of property values, loss of productive farmland and harm to “farm related business,” Welsh concluded their resolution.
“With the state uncertainties, as well as other possible issues not raised herein, the Jackson Township Board of Trustees issues a resolution requesting the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Siting Board to stop the construction of industrial solar fields within Jackson Township.”
Welsh’s reading of the resolution was met with applause from the crowd, who then were given the floor by Welsh. No representative from Greenex or EDF Renewables, the companies behind the project, were present at the meeting.
Steve Garner, former zoning inspector for the township and resident, spoke on the issue and called the measure symbolic but important.
“It’s a step for the siting committee because it will show that we’re against this as the community,” he said.
Garner said they were out collecting signatures from area residents and they have hundreds of them gathered already.
Welsh, following Garner’s comments, said from what he’s seen — about 95 percent of people were against the solar farm coming to Jackson Township.
“I think the other five percent are the people who will be making money on that,” Welsh said.
Welsh told the crowd that representatives of the project have been to the trustees three times and they’ve grown more skeptical since.
“The first time, we were all ears; the second time, we started talking back and asking more questions; and the third time, we told them that we’re not in favor of what they’re offering,” he said.
Garner said they shouldn’t stop their support at that township meeting, but show support for the residents in other townships that don’t want to support the project.
“If they’re willing to support us, then we need to support them,” he said. “We all need to stand together now.”
Welsh said the trustees have done what they can do by writing the resolution before taking questions related to the process, how people get information and more.
One such thing was the creation of a Facebook group, “Pickaway County Citizens for Responsible Solar,” which was created on Oct. 8.
That group lists their mission as “a grass-roots group of residents, landowners and friends who span Pickaway County. Our mission is to inform local residents and share information about a proposed utility-scale solar plant slated for construction in our county.“
In response to Jackson Townships resolution, EDF Renewables vowed to continue to engage with the community and work on the project.
“Although we are disappointed in this action, we will continue to engage and collaborate with the local townships, Pickaway County officials and neighboring landowners.
“Our goal is to have more opportunities to listen, understand and inform about our project’s proposed development and operation,“ Nathan Wiles, project development manager with EDF Renewables, said.
“EDF Renewables and the Chipmunk Solar Team are committed to developing solar facilities that can be in harmony with the local community and we hope to have more conversations to support that goal.”