CIRCLEVILLE — About a dozen residents visited the Pickaway County Commissioners to express their concerns about a proposed solar farm project in northwest Pickaway County.
The project, nicknamed Chipmunk Solar Project, is a 400 megawatt solar and storage project that is being developed by EDF Renewables and Greenex. It’s located in Deer Creek, Jackson and Monroe Townships.
The developers had visited the commissioners earlier in the day. According to the Ohio Power Siting Board, the project is in “pre-application” status.
According to the project’s website, they are in stage two of five stages of the project with “continued community engagement,” permitting, power marketing and surveys and studies with stage three being construction of the project. A timeline on the website shows that construction is to take place in 2023 with operation beginning in either 2024 or 2025.
The list of concerns for the residents include the environmental concerns of the project, the loss of viable farmland, obstruction of views and more.
The residents spent about an hour asking questions and discussing the matter with the commissioners in an effort to learn more about how the process works and whom they could petition to put a stop to the project.
In response, Commissioner Jay Wippel told the group of residents to make sure they register with the Ohio Power Siting Board to make sure they’re aware they have concerns. He also told them that a recent bill, Senate Bill 52, which would give them the opportunity to disallow projects like this, wouldn’t affect the Chipmunk Project since it was his understanding that it was grandfathered in under the old rules.
“To our knowledge, all of the projects in Pickaway County are grandfathered in,” Wippel said. “They all have to have started this process by Oct. 11 and all three have, so we don’t have any say in those as far as what’s implemented.”
Wippel did share with the residents their best course of action would be to go before the Ohio Power Siting Board and share their displeasure in the case.
“[The Power Siting Board] really recommends that you get in touch with them and get on the official record,” Wippel said. “It means more when you testify in person as part of the record than sending an email.”
Wippel, speaking only for himself, said he was not a fan of these types of projects and that he would not support any tax abatement measures that were asked for on the project.
“When the first [solar farm project] came in here, they said there might be one in every county, possibly two, but there is only so much room on the grid,” he said.
“I know there are at least four others that they are looking that haven’t even come in the door.
Frankly, I’m not in favor of all these different projects,” he added. “I don’t want to see all this farmland go away. That’s what I do, farm land. I think that most of us believe in property rights and that you should do with your land what you want, but when you are starting to take so much farmland, I don’t want it. I don’t think this board has any favor to approve any of these projects, if we had the power, two.”
When asked by one of the residents if the commissioners would represent them in support against the project, Wippel answered in the affirmative.
“We’d be glad to help shepherd this; if you need something, reach out to us,” he said. “We’d be happy to help you work with this process for whatever you need, but we don’t have a magic wand to say ‘Chipmunk, you’re out of here.’”
A public meeting is scheduled for Dec. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Deer Creek Lodge in Mt. Sterling. The case can be viewed on the Ohio Power Siting Board’s Website at https://opsb.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/opsb/cases/21-0960-el-bgn.
The Herald reached out to EDF Renewables, but has not yet received a direct response.