Public hearing held about Angelina Solar Facility

By Kelsey Kimbler -

EATON — A public hearing held on the proposed Angelina Solar Facility on Tuesday, April 30, was an opportunity for all who have not filed a motion to intervene in the matter to speak on the proposed project.

According to Ohio Power Siting Board Chairman Sam Randazzo, this public hearing was an opportunity to gather information to help the board come to a decision regarding the proposed solar project. Every presentation given by the public was transcribed by a court reporter to later be presented to the Ohio Power Siting Board.

Many spoke both for and against the proposed project. The majority in attendance were against Angelina Solar Facility for various reasons.

Eaton resident Jeff Dare is a lifelong resident of Dixon Township. His family started farming in Preble County in the 1950s. He opposes the Angelina Solar Facility, because the land of Dixon Township is his livelihood and he is concerned with how the solar farm will affect it.

“Open Roads has decided it would be a good idea to build solar fields where we now grow beans, corn, and cattle. I, along with many of my neighbors and members of this coalition, strongly disagree with this. We fail to see the need for constructing a solar panel field or fields in this area,” Dare said.

“Our reasons are plentiful. There are many more reasons not to build here then there are good reasons to build here. We as a nation are increasing in population and we no doubt need more energy to accommodate a growing population and industry. However, solar panels in Ohio is not the right answer for more energy.

“As I understand it, solar panels rely on sunlight to make energy. You realize how many gloomy days we experience here in the State of Ohio? Many, many days of no sun or partial sun at best. Our question to Open Roads is that, if you want to build solar fields, why not construct them in Arizona or New Mexico, where the sun shines practically every day with many more hours of sunlight each and every day.

“It is not as if we here in Dixon, Israel, and Gasper Townships will use or even have a chance to use the energy produced by the fields. It is known that the energy produced here will travel into the grid to be used who knows where, but probably not here. We do know that.

“Furthermore, with construction of these fields, there is the problem of how to store and transport the energy produced. This means more invasion of farm ground to build substations, battery bank terminals, electric towers, and powerlines. Many lines will run underground, which brings up another full topic.

“Who is going to be responsible for making certain that the underground ditch lines and drainage lines are preserved and not destroyed? There are miles and miles of drainage tile in these proposed areas and once solar fields are constructed, how will we as farmers maintain the tile lines and outlets.”

Chelsea Sorrell is a resident of Gasper Township. She spoke against Angelina Solar Facility for several reasons, one of which involves the Preble County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy and Land Use Plan, which was previously adopted by the Preble County Commissioners.

“The proposed project would seriously aberrate from the common practice of agriculture production in our area. The projected solar panel facility will be located on 800 acres, more or less, or high percentage tillable productive land. We agree with many other people in this area, solar panels are not a wise use on this farm land. Non productive land should be considered for solar panel facilities,” Sorrell said.

“The following information comes from the Preble County Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy and Land Use Plan, which was revised and adopted by our three current commissioners on Feb. 1, 2017. “The county will dispose of any development which conflicts with agricultural productivity. In the agricultural land use, these following bullet points are stated:

“‘It provides a way of life and its unique cherished values. It provides a fresh, high quality food at a reasonable cost close to the consumer. It contributes to a stable economy by providing job opportunities, income and a market for the resources of production. It contributes to the nation’s balance of payments by providing food for export.

“It provides reserve food production capacity to meet the future needs of the world. It provides wood products from woodlands. It maintains the quality and beauty of the environment through the cleansing effect of the supply oxygen by growing plants and the filtering effects of plants and soil on the water supply.

“It maintains farm — associated wildlife habitats and provides for private outdoor recreational areas for camping, fishing, and hunting. It provides areas for recycling of solid and liquid agricultural wastes. It protects mineral resources from being preempted.

“It provides productive, privately maintained agricultural open space with all its accompanying environmental benefits, including rural aesthetics and enhanced air and water quality. It protects the hydrological integrity of watersheds through the control of storm runoff and sediment drainage, protects aquifer recharge areas and provides the buffers for water supply and other natural areas.’

“Our community wrote the plan to protect farmland and the agricultural way of life,” Sorrell said. “We made it a priority and these solar projects take away our rights as a community and the lifestyle we have prioritized. Why are we taking good topsoil and putting an energy plant in its place? Technology can handle our energy needs, but technology will not replace topsoil and feed the world now or in the future.”

Other concerns included:

•Urging the Preble County Board of Commissioners to oppose the project and asking why they have not yet taken a stance.

•What many view as a lack of transparency for the project. They noted, the project was in the works for three years before the public was notified.

•Crime increasing in problem areas due to the solar project and the wiring used, which many see as valuable.

•Property values decreasing and taxes increasing.

•Materials and toxic chemicals leaching into water sources.

•Urging the Preble County Board of Commissioners to not accept the PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) Program.

•Solar panels being an ineffective energy source and not being “clean nor green.”

•The movement of local wildlife being negatively effected by the seven foot fences around the solar project.

While the majority were in opposition to the proposed project, a few people spoke in support of the Angelina Solar Facility.

Mike Broermann spoke in support of Angelina Solar Facility on behalf of the Broermann Family LLC. He began by speaking about change and why he believes it is important to embrace change to move forward in life. Before signing their agreement with Angelina Solar Facility, the Broermann Family discussed at length what this change would mean for them.

“We spent months in discussion before anything was decided,” he said. “The Broermann Family LLC also met with an adjoining neighbor and agreed to move the proposed boundary line of the solar panels to accommodate the neighbors. I know tile, water run off, and erosion are major concerns of ours, as well as the neighbors, however after all the hours of meeting with the attorneys and members of the Angelina Solar Project Open Road Renewables, we feel we have done our due diligence to address these concerns in this matter,” Broermann said.

“As I stated before, I am in favor of the Angelina Solar Project because of the benefits, jobs, and tax dollars it will generate for Preble County, Israel Township, the schools, the roads, and the community.”

Other comments in support included:

•Solar Energy being clean and renewable.

•The Angelina Solar Facility providing stable income and jobs.

•The maintenance, construction, and decommissioning of the Solar Facility being funded by Open Road Renewable LLC.

•The land being put back into agricultural use after the solar facility is decommissioned.

This public hearing was only concerning the Angelina Solar Facility. A public hearing for the Alamo Solar Facility will be held later this month. The adjudicatory hearing for the Angelina Solar Facility will be held on May 14, for those entities who have filed a motion to intervene.

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH