Ohio Power Siting Board decision denying Cepheus solar energy proposal

Ohio Power Siting Board |January 19, 2023
OhioPhotovoltaic Solar

The OPSB denied the application filed by Cepheus Energy Project, LLC to construct a 68 megawatt (MW) solar-powered electric generating facility in Delaware Township and Sherwood Village, Defiance County. The OPSB found that, based on the unanimous opposition to the project by local governments whose constituents are impacted by the project, the proposed project would fail to serve the “public interest, convenience, and necessity” as required by Ohio law. The full decisioin can be access at the document links on this page. An excerpt of the decision is provided below. 

Paragraphs 68, 69 and paragraphs 125-127 of the Ohio Power Siting Board's opinion and order are excerpted below. These paragraphs highlight the thinking of the Board when it denied the proposed Cepheus solar energy facility.
68) Relative to public interaction and participation, Staff describes that Cepheus (1) acted to educate the public about the Project by hosting virtual and in-person informational meetings to address issues such as noise, decommissioning, visual screening, participation in the Board's process, wildlife, public health, property values, and drainage; (2) prepared a preliminary complaint resolution program; (3) committed to notify affected local residents prior to the start of the Project's construction and operation; and (4) committed to providing Staff with quarterly complaint summary reports. In spite of these commitments. Staff describes that several public comments from local governmental entities were submitted in the docket. In these public comments, Staff notes that (1) the Defiance Soil and Water Conservation District expressed concerns with the Project, including soil erosion and water runoff, vegetative ground cover, and noxious weeds; (2) Delaware Township Board of Trustees included Resolution #5-21-2021 in opposition to the solar Project; (3) a letter from the newly elected Sherwood Township trustee expressing his opposition to the Project; (4) statements from the Defiance County Economic Development Office indicating that the Project's location would halt economic development in the Village of Sherwood; (5) a letter signed by the Defiance County Board of Commissioners concluding the Project lacks "service to the public interest, convenience, and necessity"; (6) a letter from the President of the Sherwood Area Economic Development Corporation stating that the Project will have a potentially negative impact on the village; (7) a letter from the Chief of the Delaware Township Fire Department expressing support for the Project and the resulting tax revenue; and (8) several comments expressing concern that certain comments filed in the case record may have been filed by someone other than the named commenter and, therefore, should be considered invalid. (Staff Ex. 1 at 40-41.)

69) In consideration of the public interaction and participation surrounding the Project, Staff concludes that it does not serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity due to the general opposition from local citizens and governmental bodies. Staff emphasizes that the interests of the impacted local governmental bodies were "especially compelling" given the responsibility those entities bear for preserving the health, safety, and welfare of their citizenry. Accordingly, Staff concludes that the Project will create negative local community impacts that outweigh its benefits. (Staff Ex. 1 at 41-42.)

125) It is clear from a review of the record that local governmental entities exerted considerable effort in gauging, and filing comments reflecting, the public perception of their constituents during the course of this proceeding. As noted above, the Delaware Township Board of Trustees, Village of Sherwood, Defiance County Economic Development Office, and the Defiance County Board of Commissioners filed comments in opposition to the Project. In a letter dated November 22, 2021, the Defiance County Board of Commissioners, indicated that the area the Project is proposed to be sited in has been experiencing expansion and raised concerns that several million dollars of grants for infrastructure updates and upgrades may go to waste if the Project is approved. Further, as noted by Staff, an undated letter submitted to the Board by the Village of Sherwood Village Council ori October 21, 2021, expressed council members' opposition to the Project, particularly noting concerns that the Project will hinder potential economic growth, further adding that developers have informed the Village that they "will no longer invest" if the Project is approved. Staff believes that the public opposition to the Project will create negative impacts on the local community and served as the basis for its recommendation. Staff believes that any benefits to the local community are outweighed by this overwhelming public opposition and, therefore, the Project would not serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity. Again, all local governmental entities unanimously oppose the Project and have primarily expressed concern on the impacts the Project may have on future economic opportunities in the area. (Staff Ex. 1 at 40-42.)

126) In addition to the unanimous opposition expressed by local government entities whose constituents are impacted by the Project, we find that the public comments in the case docket and expressed at the local public  hearing refute Cepheus' contention that the Project is in the public interest, convenience, and necessity. As noted above, approximately 70 percent of the public comments received were in opposition of the Project.

127) While Cepheus points to the Duke Corridor Project to support its argument that the Board has previously ruled that a project's larger benefits to the state, the public, and the grid outweigh local disapproval, even if there are "thousands of comments from members of the general public, local organizations, and local officials" and opposing intervention from multiple local governments, we note that case is not directly applicable to our consideration here, as it involved the siting of a proposed pipeline. Instead, we find more persuasive the directly applicable, and more recent, Board precedent involving other proposed solar electric generation facilities in Ohio, such as Birch Solar and Kingwood Solar, as referenced throughout this Order. Furthermore, the citation referenced by Cepheus from Duke Corridor Project merely notes that the public comment process had been extensively utilized, and when combined with the other public participation options, confirmed that intervenors and the public had been afforded a full and fair opportunity to participate in the proceeding. Duke Corridor Project, Order, Opinion, and Certificate (Nov. 21, 2019) at 82-83. Furthermore, although Cepheus argues that the viewpoints of some governmental entities were inconsistent during the course of this proceeding, we recognize that' the Board's process invites some level of reevaluation as new information presents itself or the circumstances surrounding a project change, including a subsequent overwhelming demonstration of opposition by the public. Local governmental entities are permitted to reevaluate their decision to either support or oppose a project, based on the circumstances at hand and the opinions of the constituents they represent. We must respect their process, as well as their overall recommendations, and agree with Staff that such decisions serve as 1261 In addition to the unanimous opposition expressed by local government entities whose constituents are impacted by the Project, we find that the public comments in the case docket and expressed at the local public hearing refute Cepheus' contention that the Project is in the public interest, convenience, and necessity. As noted above, approximately 70 percent of the public comments received were in opposition of the Project.


Opinion And Order Cepheue 2021 01 19

January 21, 2023


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