IBERIA — Trustees are cautiously optimistic when talking about the 1,150-acre solar project being planned at the far northwest corner of Washington Township north of Iberia in Morrow County.
Named “Blossom Solar,” the proposed project is a 144 megawatt photovoltaic electric generation facility, primarily located in Washington Township, with a small amount of land in Tully Township in Marion County.
Blossom Solar is a subsidiary of Open Road Renewables and Eolian Energy. Open Road Renewables develops utility-scale projects in the eastern United States.
The Morrow County Recorder’s office has record of “Memorandum of Lease and Easement Agreement” with Blossom Solar and 14 property owners in Washington Township.
Washington Township Trustee Dwain Peak said the trustees have met with the Blossom Project leaders.
“The project is pretty sure to happen,” said Peak. “The surveying is all done.”
Peak added that one of the best things about the project will be the tax benefits for the township, the local school district and the county.
Although Peak said some residents have expressed concerns about the solar panels near their homes, Peak said the project leaders explained that the solar panels will have setbacks from homes and there will be plantings to screen the project.
Trustee Robert Kochman said he has had many questions from residents in the township, but not negative comments.
He said one property owner was concerned they would cut down the woods on Hunter Road. However, one of the stipulations of building solar projects is that they cannot clear a wooded area or wetlands.
Kochman believes there is also some security the project will be successful as planned because “the company has to put money up front in bonds before construction begins.”
“We’re learning a lot,” said Kochman. “Change is never easy.”
Company touts benefits
Patrick Buckley, Vice President of Open Roads Renewables, said, “Blossom Solar will produce many local and in-state job opportunities, clean and quiet energy, and substantial annual tax revenue, which will provide schools and local governments stable payments to invest in local and regional priorities for many years to come.”
Buckley said construction of the facility could begin as early as the summer of 2023 and will take about 12 months to complete.
The solar panels will be mounted on single-axis trackers on driven steel pilings. The construction will allow minimal ground disturbance. The project will be on farmland that can be readily returned to farming after the 40-year life of the project.
The Blossom project will interconnect into First Energy’s existing 138 kV Galion substation on Edison Drive. Trustees noted that the close proximity to a utility substation is one of the main reasons the area was chosen for the solar project.
Next steps for project
Transmission studies are underway and indicate the project can advance to apply for a permit the first quarter of 2022.
Buckley plans to continue significant community engagement and communication prior to submitting permit application.
Neighbor notices have been sent to property owners who are adjacent to land that is contracted for the solar project. There will be a public information meeting in the Iberia area in early 2022.
A 150-day review period will precede a public hearing and formal hearing.
“We are currently in the process of engaging with the community to ensure that the project is designed in the most responsible way possible,” said Buckley. “Our team is excited about creating meaningful local long-term partnerships and the opportunity that Blossom Solar presents to the project’s participating landowners and community at large.”
There is additional information at the Blossom Solar website: www.blossomsolarproject.com. Residents can email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.