Ohio Governor Ted Strickland today announced agreements to create Turning Point Solar, a 49.9 MW solar array to be built on strip-mined land adjacent to The Wilds nature conservancy.
At signing ceremonies in Governor Strickland’s cabinet room, American Electric Power (AEP) CEO Michael G. Morris signed a memorandum of understanding with project developers New Harvest Ventures and Agile Energy to enter into a 20-year purchase agreement for the facility’s power.
Pending approval of incentives to be provided by state and local governments, two prominent Spanish solar power component manufacturers, Prius Energy S.L. and Isofoton, have agreed to open new manufacturing facilities in Ohio to help construct the 239,400 panel solar array. If operating today, Turning Point would be the largest photovoltaic solar array in the United States. Approximately 300 jobs will be needed to build the project at peak construction. In addition, Prius and Isofoton have agreed to locate their North American operations in Ohio, creating more than 300 permanent manufacturing jobs.
“This project is compelling on several fronts,” said David Wilhelm, New Harvest Ventures partner. “Turning Point Solar will bring renewable energy to Ohioans at a reasonable rate, utilize reclaimed mine land in an innovative way, and bring new construction and manufacturing jobs to Appalachian Ohio.”
Last week, Gov. Strickland signed an executive order eliminating Ohio's tangible personal property tax and real property tax for advanced and renewable energy project facilities, making it easier for energy companies to do business and create jobs in Ohio. In 2008, Strickland signed a landmark energy reform bill, SB 221, that calls for 25 percent of all energy consumed by Ohioans to come from advanced energy sources by 2025. Of that, .5 percent must be solar energy.
“We recognized the future when we established our state’s aggressive renewable portfolio standard, invested in the energy industry and eliminated taxes for new energy facilities to create jobs and grow Ohio’s advanced energy industry,” said Governor Strickland. “Today, the future has recognized Ohio. One of the largest solar farms in the nation is going to be built here in Ohio, with solar panels and solar trackers made in Ohio, built by Ohioans with the know-how taught in Ohio colleges.”
Gov. Strickland, accompanied by state and federal lawmakers and project stakeholders looked on as Turning Point Solar developers signed memoranda of understanding with AEP, Prius, Isofoton, and the University System of Ohio. Prius produces sun tracking equipment and racks for panels. Isofoton manufacturers large, 275 w solar photovoltaic panels.
“This is not your typical fixed solar array. To maximize output, Turning Point expects to deploy high-efficiency photovoltaic panels controlled by Prius Energy’s state of the art solar tracking equipment,” said José Carlos Sánchez-Muliterno, partner and board member for Albacete, Spain based Prius Energy S.L.
Isofoton CEO Angel Luis Serrano added, “Isofoton, the reference Spanish photovoltaic manufacturer and worldwide pioneer in solar energy since 1981, is committed to setting up a next generation factory model here in Ohio. The factory will be built with local suppliers for local end-users, and with a mandate to create good and green local jobs in close partnership with Ohio’s public sector energy leaders and private sector utilities. We understand that ‘Made in USA’ is an attribute to be proud of. We are honored to join Ohio’s corporate community, renewable energy sector and growing solar cluster, together with Turning Point Solar. We look forward to becoming a dedicated contributor to Ohio’s economy, putting locally manufactured Isofoton PV cells on Prius trackers and helping to make the green economy vision a reality.”
Turning Point Solar is using a tract of at least 500 acres of reclaimed land mined by the Central Ohio Coal Company between 1969 and 1991. The land was infamously strip-mined by the Big Muskie, then the world's largest dragline, and one of the world's largest mobile earth-moving machines. Big Muskie removed more than 608,000,000 cubic yards (465,000,000 m3) of overburden, which is twice as much earth as was moved during construction of the Panama Canal.
A wildlife park called The Wilds, which opened in 1994, was created from 10,000 acres of the land stripped by Big Muskie and reclaimed. Turning Point Solar is adjacent to The Wilds, on about 1,000 fallow acres of the reclaimed land owned by the nature conservancy and the AEP. Prairie planting tests are currently being conducted as part of plans to transform the land under the solar panels into an organic carbon sink.
“This announcement is the next chapter in a great story of transforming Ohio’s reclaimed mine lands,” said Wilds Executive Director Evan Blumer. “We see today that with responsible stewardship and visionary leadership, we can restore our land while we improve our energy diversity and security, and bring the green collar economy to Appalachia.”
Zane State University and Hocking College have both developed programs to train workers in a variety of green jobs programs including the essential skills needed to build and maintain solar operations such as Turning Point.
Congressman Zack Space (OH-18), in whose district the project will be located, concluded, "Today's announcement of more than 300 jobs coming to Southeastern Ohio provides an enormous boost for our economy in the short-term, and paves the way for the kind of long-term development that will help Appalachian Ohio reverse the economic disparity that has been so devastating to our towns and communities."