Officials greenlight massive billion-dollar solar farm project that will be largest of its kind: ‘Unique and bold opportunity’ – The Cool Down

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A huge solar farm that has been approved in Ohio could be the paradigm for similar ones moving forward. 

The Oak Run Solar Project on 6,000 acres in Madison County will be able to serve the grid with enough electricity to power 170,000 homes. 

The most impressive part about the billion-dollar effort is how developers are designing the massive system to include agriculture — a concept called agrivoltaics. It’s part of the work to maximize sun-catching, as well as to gain support from Madison’s robust farming community, according to Electrek and the project’s website

“A solar project provides a healthy, productive economic development opportunity for local land to harvest a stable cash crop —  the sun,” the developers wrote on the website.  

As part of the plan, a thousand sheep will graze on the Oak Run property. There will be 2,000 acres of crops a year after the system powers up. The goal is for about 70% of the project area, around 4,000 acres, to include agriculture, according to Electrek’s story. 

It’s the largest project of its kind in the United States, estimated to generate $7.2 million in tax revenue each year. The system’s life span is estimated at 35 years, all per the developer, Savion. Savion is a subsidiary of Shell.

Electrek reports that some of the land being used is owned by Bill Gates, who has supported numerous clean-energy projects. 

The dual-use nature of Oak Run has the potential to aid two growing problems on the planet: air pollution and food security.

Reliance on dirty power sources contributes to planet overheating, which is negatively impacting the food industry. Lower productivity, droughts, and other weather-related problems are even impacting prices at the grocery store. 

Solar projects that power hundreds of thousands of homes can help our grids move to a cleaner energy base. Better yet, businesses like EnergySage are working to make installing home-based systems more accessible. The results could eliminate power bills, saving as much as $1,500 a year, especially when considering tax breaks and other incentives geared to lower setup costs. 

The U.S. Energy Department reports that renewable energy generates about 20% of the country’s electricity. Solar is at about 3.4% of that mix. The project in Ohio can help to increase the production of these forms of energy, becoming a boon for two industries. 

“As climate change continues to disrupt Ohio’s agriculture practices and yields, the practice of agriculture in tandem with solar panels represents a unique and bold opportunity to act on climate,” Nolan Rutschilling, Ohio Environmental Council’s managing director of Energy Policy, said in the Electrek story. 

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