Ohio solar project passes federal environmental review

A nearly 50-MW solar project in Ohio on a reclaimed strip mine has no significant environmental impact, according to a ruling issued in the Federal Register.

The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Environmental Assessment (EA) associated with a solar generation project planned by Turning Point Solar LLC.

The EA evaluates the environmental impacts associated with a potential loan or loan guarantee to Turning Point Solar LLC (Turning Point Solar) for the proposal. RUS is considering funding this proposal.

Turning Point Solar plans to construct a 49.9 MW solar facility, one of the largest east of the Mississippi, 20 miles southeast of Zanesville, Ohio. It will be sited on approximately 771 acres of reclaimed strip-mined land owned by AEP Ohio. The land was mined by the Central Ohio Coal Company between 1969 and 1991, after which time it was reclaimed.

AEP Ohio, a unit of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), last summer entered into a participation agreement with Turning Point Solar LLC, a joint venture of Agile Energy Inc. and New Harvest Ventures.

The project also has a significant local economic development component. The solar photovoltaic panel maker supplying the project, Spanish-based Isofoton, as part of the project has agreed to base its North American manufacturing facility in Ohio, and projects the facility will employ up to 330 when fully operational. Approximately 250,000 photovoltaic panels will be needed to build the plant.

Construction and commercial operation of the facility will be phased in over three years with construction expected to begin in the summer of 2012 and finishing in 2015.

The facility would interconnect to PJM, once its application process is complete.

The EA determined the project would have no significant impacts to water quality, wetlands, the 100-year floodplain, land use, aesthetics, transportation, or human health and safety. The proposal will have no adverse effects on historic properties and is not likely to affect federally listed threatened and endangered species or designated critical habitat.

The notice was published in the Federal Register on April 27.