As an Austin, Texas firm (7X.energy) moves forward on a proposed solar farm in Defiance County’s Delaware Township (see related story Page A1), the company has been engaging residents concerned about the development.
A project map shows nine properties which the company hopes to lease from landowners for a few decades. As such, solar panels would be installed close to a number of residential properties, which is prompting concerns.
Asked by The Crescent-News whether 7X.energy would consider expanding a buffer zone “to a point that might satisfy” landowners, the company’s senior development director, Cliff Scher, responded that “we are definitely open to conversations about buffer width and the types of vegetation to be planted between the panels and a residence. Our design standard is to have at least a 100-foot buffer between a property line for a residential property and a fence line. That creates a situation where the distance between a residence and solar panels is typically more than 200 feet. We are also open to entering into good-neighbor agreements with adjacent homeowners to provide them with annual income throughout the life of the project.
“I encourage anyone with concerns about the buffer size and types of vegetation to get in contact with the project as soon as possible so we can work to address them,” he added. “On the map page of our website (https://www.cepheussolar.com/project-map) there are links where people can provide feedback on the proposed panel area.”
Company officials fielded numerous questions during a public hearing they convened and held electronically on June 2, a transcript of which was provided to The Crescent-News by Scher.
He noted that a public hearing is planned in the future — after the company submits its plans to the Ohio Power Siting Board which must approve its application for the project to proceed.
Below is a sampling of the many questions asked during the June 2 hearing and the answers provided by company officials:
Question: “How tall are the panels?”
Answer: “The panels during most of the day are going to stand about four to six feet above the ground. ... During the early part of the day while the sun is rising and as part of the later part of the day as the sun is setting and they are at full tilt, the 60 degree tilt, they can reach up to 10 feet and up to 14 feet on some tracker models.”
Question: “How do you expect to compensate property/homeowners for the inevitable loss in property value?”
Answer: “... studies have shown that when there are solar farms adjacent to a residence in a rural area, there is not a negative impact on property value. That is a good question and an understandable concern, because this is a change to the area, but it is something that we work to mitigate and enter into agreements with adjacent homeowners so they can get income from the solar farm project from the fact that we are now leasing their neighbor’s property. That is definitely something that we are interested in working with people on.”
Question: “What sort of complaints have you gotten related to current/already installed projects?”
Answer: “I have not heard of any complaints from our projects that are already installed.”
Question: “Who mows (property under lease around the solar panels)?”
Answer: “After the project’s constructed we will have a contracted operation and maintenance provider.”
Question: “What can property owners on Rosebrook Road expect to have as glare from the panels in the morning hours as the panels will face west? How do you plan to mitigate this concern as well as the heat that will be produced?”
Answer: “We are doing a glare analysis as part of our application. That is one of the requirements and it is definitely a good thing to do, as I think was mentioned earlier, in case there’s airports nearby. Solar panels are designed to absorb sunlight, not to reflect it. Studies have shown that they do not have any more reflectivity than a paved road, so there would be minimal glare.
Question: “Can you discuss how you determined the location of your proposed fields especially those that are adjacent to (and nearly surrounding) residential properties?”
Answer: “... we are interested in and working with adjacent homeowners on entering into good neighbor agreements that address vegetative buffers, and payments throughout the life of the project, and any other issues and concerns that people have to the best of our ability. So, hopefully we can be in contact about that in the near future.”
Question: “Will you be accommodating our request to remove the solar field across from our home?”
Answer: “We will reach out to the homeowner who submitted this question. As I mentioned, this is a process where we are working to get feedback from people and we’d have to get into more details and better understand the situation to determine if it’s an area where we can reduce the impact through some of the methods that I described before or enter into a good neighbor agreement.”
Question: “Isn’t it true that none of the power produced here will stay here so our electric bills will not be lower?”
Answer: “Well, the power produced will be connected to the transmission grid at the Lockwood Road Substation, and the electricity will flow to where it is needed. It is like pouring water in one side of a bathtub and taking a cup of water out of the other. The water molecules in the bathtub are unable to be identified, the same way as the electricity is on the wires, it will flow to where it is needed.”
Question: “To whom/how do we let our support or our opposition be known?”
Answer: “There are a number of ways that you can do that. I suppose the easiest is to simply send us an email, and you can do that by sending an email to contactOPSB@puco.ohio.gov. You can also file comments through our website, which is opsb.ohio.gov, there is a comment form on that site that you can use to submit comments in any case.”