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OPSB Denial of Birch Solar: Decision

Ohio Power Siting Board|October 20, 2022
OhioZoning/PlanningPhotovoltaic Solar

The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) voted to deny a permit for the proposed Birch Solar application after finding that the project did not serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity. Birch Solar would have constructed a 300-megawatt (MW) solar-energy facility in Shawnee Township, Allen County, Ohio, and Duchouquet and Logan townships, Auglaize County, Ohio. A portion of the decision is provided below. The full decision can be accessed at the document links on this page. Also attached is the OPSB staff report recommending the project be denied.


EXCERPT OF DECISION

{¶ 45} The record is uncontroverted as to the determination that Birch Solar’s application satisfies the statutory requirements in R.C. 4906.10(A) in every respect except as to whether the Project serves the public interest, convenience, and necessity (Staff Ex. 1 at 40, 43, 48-49; Staff Ex. 2 at 4; Tr. at 29, 39; Stipulation at 17-18). As to that issue, Staff recommends a finding that the Project does not serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity (Staff Ex. 2 at 4; Tr. at 29, 39). Stipulating Parties recommend a finding that the Project does serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity (Joint Ex. 1 at 17-18). Partial Stipulating Parties and Shawnee Township, which did not participate in the Stipulation, do not make a recommendation as to this determination (Joint Ex. 1 at 2-3). Though, as described below, Auglaize County, Allen County, Shawnee Township, and Logan Township have each filed resolutions or correspondence indicating their opposition to either the Project, specifically, or the installation of large industrial solar facilities such as the Project, generally, outside of industrial areas in the communities that surround the Project. (See Paragraphs 63-66.)

{¶ 46} Consistent with R.C. 4906.07, Staff completed its investigation of the application and submitted the Staff Report. As described in the Staff Report, Staff initially recommended that the Board deny Birch Solar’s application due to (1) concerns as to the Project’s probable environmental impact (and minimization thereof) with respect to locating and avoiding construction and operation impacts in areas where historic, unrecorded, oil and gas wells might exist, and (2) Applicant’s failure to provide sufficient analysis to determine and mitigate potential adverse impacts to cultural resources. Staff explained that should the Project encounter one of these latent oil and gas wells, it could result in the release of petroleum or brine that could affect vegetation, ground water, or surface water, in the form of odors, gas vapors, or oil leakage. (Staff Ex. 1 at 23-29, 35-38; R.C. 4906.10(A)(2); R.C.
4906.10(A)(3).)

{¶ 47} In addition to the environmental impact concerns, Staff also described concerns regarding whether the Project serves the public interest, convenience, and necessity, as required by R.C. 4906.10(A)(6). Staff described that Birch Solar engaged the community using virtual and in-person public informational meetings where attendees could ask questions and provide feedback. Further, Birch Solar offered adjacent landowners a neighboring landowner financial benefit from $10,000 to $50,000 depending on proximity, for any home located within 500 feet of the Project. Applicant also offered a home value agreement for residences located closest to the Project. (Staff Ex. 1 at 44-47.)

{¶ 48} Despite Birch Solar’s communication efforts and concessions to property owners in proximity to the Project, Staff described continued public opposition to the Project. Staff noted concerns regarding the opposition expressed by local elected officials, as described by the filings in public comment docket of (1) a Shawnee Township Resolution No. 91-20 opposing the Project on November 20, 2020, (2) a Logan Township Resolution opposing the Project on November 20, 2020, and (3) correspondence signed by the Allen County Commissioners expressing concerns regarding the Project filed on June 30 and July 6, 2021. In spite of its concerns, Staff ultimately recommended a finding that the Project satisfies the test as to public interest, convenience, and necessity, provided that it is subject to Staff’s recommended certificate conditions. (Staff Ex. 1 at 44-47, 50-58.)

Attachments

Opsb Staff Report Birch Solar 2022 10 20

October 22, 2022

Opsb Decision On Birch Solar 2022 10 20

October 22, 2022


Source:https://dis.puc.state.oh.us/V…

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