Ohio solar power has moved from cottage industry to growth industry
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Solar energy systems are proliferating across Ohio — growing by more than 23 percent in just the past year, an in-depth analysis of state records reveals.
The growth has come despite a law passed by Ohio lawmakers last year freezing state mandates for two years that since 2009 had required power companies to annually increase the percentage of solar- and wind-generated power they sold.
And significantly, most of Ohio’s 1,961 solar systems registered with state regulators as of May 30 were not small and not on residential roof tops, the analysis done by Green Energy Ohio has found.
Other key findings include:
The largest 25 solar systems as of May 30 had a combined generating capacity of 74.4 megawatts, or 56 percent of the state-wide total solar generating capacity of just over 132 megawatts.
Most of the 25 largest solar arrays were in Northwest Ohio, while Northeast Ohio had only two large systems.
One large municipal array, 4.3 megawatts built by Columbus-based American Renewable Power for the Minster, Ohio, municipal system, included a massive battery installation which can function as a backup as well as a profit-center because grid manager PJM Interconnection buys its reserve power to smooth out power flows over the high-voltage grid. It’s a model other municipal systems are looking at.
Large solar installations already under construction will add another 34 megawatts of generating capacity this year. And that does not count the numerous small business and residential installations expected to come on line, each with a capacity of 3,000 to 6,000 watts on average.
American Electric Power’s announced plan to develop 400 megawatts of new solar power beginning as early as next year, if carried out, would be a “game changer.”
Green Energy Ohio, or GEO, already has published some of the results of its analysis on its website, but this week it will host an all-day public forum in Bowling Green on Thursday focusing on large-scale solar installations and on the details of the study. Click here for detailed information about the conference.
The GEO findings and a day of presentations by some of the companies that have been building “big solar” come as summer wraps up and intense lobbying on the fate of the state’s freeze on renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates is expected to begin.
That freeze ends at the start of 2017 and lawmakers led by Sen. William Seitz, a conservative Republican from Cincinnati, are aiming to extend the freeze or do away with the mandate altogether, along with a parallel rule requiring electric utilities to help customers use less power.
Since most of the state’s utilities continued to offer customers efficiency programs despite the law, many believe the fight in the coming months will be limited to renewable energy.
Thursday’s “Building Big Solar Across Ohio” will feature 19 speakers and a detailed look at GEO’s analysis.