It's just a soybean pasture now 40 miles east of Cincinnati, but soon it will keep the lights on at Cincinnati City Hall and thousands of buildings in the city.
Two energy companies over the next year will build in Highland County a massive array of solar panels: 310,000 over 1,000 acres.
A photo illustration, created by the city of Cincinnati, of Lunken Airport covered in solar panels. (Photo: Provided by the city of Cincinnati)
The City of Cincinnati will enter into a 20-year contract with those two companies, Cincinnati-based Creekwood Energy and Chicago-based Hecate Energy, to get energy from these solar panels.
Mayor John Cranley on Thursday hailed it as the largest municipal solar project in the country.
After President Donald Trump announced his intention to pull out of the Paris Accords regulating emissions around the globe, Cincinnati City Council set the goal for the city to become carbon-neutral by 2035.
“I think it’s safe to say most of the people in this room were upset by the decision by President Trump and upset by the recent decision by the State of Ohio to gut the state’s renewable standards,” said Cranley, speaking at a press conference at Cincinnati Police District 3. That police station already produces its own energy from solar panels and other green technology. “And they come to (the issue) from a moral point of view that we believe it’s wrong to rip up this planet and make it worse for our kids.
This will get the city closer to its carbon-neutral goal by providing the city government with 25% of its total energy consumption and provide all the power for the city’s municipal buildings.
City planners estimate this will save the city $1.7 million over the life of the 20-year contract.
"You can be a climate change denier," Cranley said. "You might not believe in science. But it would be irresponsible for a city to not deliver a cheaper product, especially if that product is better for the environment."
The construction of the solar array in Highland County is 100% privately-funded. Highland County's flat, inexpensive land made the site ideal for this project, Cranley said. Cranley said solar panels in 2020 will also be installed on several city-owned buildings.
The solar panels will also provide about 25% of the power to 80,000 homes that have opted-in to get renewable energy.
The solar panels will be finished and completely operational by late 2021, Cranley said. It will save the city money, Cranley said.
“Buying energy when air conditioners are cranking on a hot July day is more expensive than owning a solar panel,” Cranley said. "What we're announcing today is literally lowering the burden on your tax dollars."
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