In yet another instance of brownfields turning green with solar energy, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland recently announced a set of agreements that will create a 49.9 MW solar array on strip-mined land adjacent to a nature conservation area known as The Wilds. At signing ceremonies in the Governor’s Columbus 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.
The solar project, known as “Turning Point Solar” is big–really big. So big in fact, that if it were operating today, it would be the largest photovoltatic array in the country. Pending approval of state and local incentives, two Spanish solar power component manufacturers, Prius Energy S.L. and Isofoton, have volunteered to open new manufacturing facilities in Ohio to help construct the 239,400 solar panels slated for the project–and even agreed to locate their North American operations in Ohio, which would create more than 300 permanent manufacturing jobs.
This seems a fitting fate for one of the largest, most infamous brownfields in the country, more than 10,000 acres mined by the Central Ohio Coal Company between 1969 and 1991, and infamously strip-mined by the Big Muskie, then the world’s largest dragline. Big Muskie removed more than 608,000,000 cubic yards of earth–twice as much earth as was moved during construction of the Panama Canal.
The Wilds wildlife park was created from 10,000 acres of this land in 1994, and the Turning Point Solar project will be adjacent to this conservation area, on about 1,000 fallow acres of the reclaimed land owned by the Nature Conservancy and the AEP. Currently, prairie planting tests are being conducted, with the hopes of transforming the land under the solar panels into an organic carbon sink. Solar panels used will track the sun as it moves across the sky in order to ensure maximum output.
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