Proposal for $150 million solar farm facing opposition in Mahoning County
A proposed $150 million solar farm project faces opposition as Green Township becomes the latest community to push back on renewable energy development in the Valley.
At a Monday meeting of the Mahoning County Commissioners, Texas-based Alpin Sun proposed the $150 million plan, which would bring an estimated 150 construction jobs and $42.4 million in tax revenue to Mahoning County over its lifespan.
Alpin Sun employee Christian Holencamp says money can be put toward schools, roads, emergency services, and other necessary county functions.
At the hearing, Wayne and Sarah Grier, Green Township's landowners, said they were the ones to invite Alpin Sun to their family farm to help revitalize the community and keep it together.
In his testimony to the commissioners, Wayne Grier said he was struggling to find ways to keep his land amidst financial struggles and was faced with the reality he may have to sell some of the land to get by. Then, he started researching and stumbled upon a better way to utilize that land.
"[The land] will not go to just a vacant lot, it will not go to houses, but I can still keep agriculture there. We will be able to farm sun. With this, we can also run sheep, we can bee keep. We are giving the land benefits...we are keeping this together where it's not going to be houses, it's not going to be a strip mall," he said. "Whether you believe in climate change or not, we need energy."
The project proposes zones of green spaces and trees between the panels to provide a habitat for local wildlife, including bees and plants.
The plan calls for $2 million to be invested annually into maintaining the facility and the land.
The plan also calls for the decommissioning and recycling of the panels at the end of their lifespan, with the land being returned to agricultural or other uses.
While dozens of people attended the hearing, several citizens spoke out against the project, citing concerns over the loss of agricultural property and the concern in the event of high wind events, and the clean-up.
The public hearing was for Green Township residents and was looking at solar projects that would exceed 250 acres or more, according to Mark Stepuk, Green Township trustee.
Everything presented at the public hearing will be taken under advisement before the commissioners, and Commissioner David Ditzler told the crowd that he feels that Green Township elected officials have their fingers of what the community wants and that commissioners will "cover all our legal obligations and responsibilities, to make sure nothing comes back at any of us, from the standpoint that we didn't follow the proper procedures."