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Samsung targeting Stark County for 800-acre solar farm

  • Sep 15, 2021 9:58 am GMT
  • 109 views
Source: 
Canton Repository

Samsung Renewable Energy wants to build an 800-acre solar farm in Washington Township near Alliance.

The company has been in talks with the Stark County Regional Planning Commission since February, Bob Nau, the executive director of the RPC, told Stark County commissioners during a meeting Tuesday.

The targeted location is about a seven-mile drive southwest of Alliance on at least 10 parcels of properties owned by at least four entities, according to a map provided to the commissioners. A few of the properties are around an abandoned railroad bed which has right-of-way controlled by the Stark County Park District.

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The owners would presumably lease the land to Samsung. The properties are split into one area north and south of Cenfield Street NE and to the south one area just north of State Route 153. The area is east of Lynnhaven Avenue NE and Oakhill Avenue NE and west of Hartzell Avenue NE.

Washington Township Trustee Wayne Wallace said it's his understanding the property owners are in lease negotiations with Samsung. But he said he did not know how far those discussions have gone. He said it's not clear how the solar farm on farmland, often used to grow corn and soybeans, would be connected to Ohio's electrical grid.

He said the township's three-member board has no formal role in reviewing the project. Wallace said he needed to know more details before deciding whether he favors the project. Some township residents, he said, have expressed concern about how the solar panels would look from their homes.

Jonelle Melnichenko, the RPC's director of planning, told the commissioners, that Samsung and the RPC held a teleconference on the project in March. Representatives of Samsung then had an in-person meeting with RPC staff at the RPC's downtown Canton office on July 21.

A handout provided to the commissioners said the solar farm would be operational by March 2024 and would have a capacity of 150 megawatts under the alternating current standard and 195 megawatts under the direct current standard.

After a feasibility study, a facility study and permitting, grid construction would start the second quarter of next year in conjunction with a geotechnical study, according to a proposed timeline submitted to the county by Samsung.

An illustration indicates the solar farm would be made up of cleared land with panels of solar cells on the ground. A handout provided to participants at the July meeting included a one-page list of the wind and solar farms Samsung has developed since 2000 in the U.S, Canada, Europe and Asia. The document touts the benefits of solar energy as reducing carbon dioxide emissions and creating local jobs.

Samsung C&T or Samsung Construction and Trading Corporation, which is based in Seoul, South Korea, owns Samsung Renewable Energy, based in Mississauga, Ontario in Canada. It is part of the conglomerate of companies in South Korea, which include Samsung Electronics, the well-known manufacturer of smartphones and TVs.

Samsung Renewable Energy's website says it is "a leading project developer specializing in renewable energy and infrastructure serving utilities, industry and communities."

Phone and email messages seeking comment were left Tuesday with the subsidiary.

As of December, nearly two dozen solar farm projects were pending in Ohio, according to Dispatch.com, which reported that the Ohio Power Siting Board approved three renewable energy projects throughout the state in June. It also reported that Microsoft Founder Bill Gates' 6,300-acre farm in Madison County could become among the largest solar farms in the nation.

Nau briefed county commissioners on the Samsung project while discussing the new law, Senate Bill 52, which takes effect Oct. 11. The new statute, signed by Gov. Mike DeWine into law in July, would allow county commissioners in Ohio to ban or restrict the construction of large wind farms and solar farms in their counties. It requires hearings be held to allow the public to opine on the projects and gives commissioners and township trustees a voice in reviews of such projects by the Ohio Power Siting Board. It also allows citizens who disagree with commissioners' decisions to block a solar or wind farm project to gather petition signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

State Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, was one of Senate Bill 52's cosponsors. He wrote that he backed the bill in a June 28 vote in the Ohio Senate because it "provides for more public involvement regarding the siting of wind and solar energy sources."

The proposed Washington Township solar farm would be in the current district of State Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus, R-Paris Township.

Stoltzfus wrote he supported Senate Bill 52 "to give local elected officials a voice and seat at the table to weigh in on these large projects on behalf of their citizens. If the decisions the elected officials make are unpopular, the citizens that elected them can undertake a referendum to reverse the elected officials decisions."

Nau said Samsung believes that if it submits an application seeking approval to build the solar farm in Washington Township to the Power Siting Board by Oct. 11, it would exempt from many of the more stringent requirements of Senate Bill 52.

But Melnichenko said Samsung still wants to hold a public meeting with residents that has not yet been scheduled.

"They seemed genuinely interested in a robust public involvement process," Nau said.

Nau said the Power Siting Board's decisions override any zoning restrictions established by townships.

Melnichenko said a solar farm would pay about $9,000 a year in lieu of taxes per megawatt of capacity to the county, township, school district and any emergency services entity. Even if the solar farm isn't generating the electricity it would still owe the money.

The Power Siting Board's online list of pending projects do not include any in Stark County.

Stark County Commissioner Bill Smith said wind and solar farms affect residents' views from their homes differently.

"You can almost hide solar," Smith said. "You might drive by and not see it's there. Wind (turbines), you can't hide it."

Reach Robert Wang at 330-580-8327 or robert.wang@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @rwangREP

©2021 www.cantonrep.com. Visit cantonrep.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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