Dayton City leaders are excited for the potential of the Gem City Solar project
A solar farm covering close to three hundred acres of agricultural land might be coming soon to West Dayton. As proposed, Gem City Solar would produce enough electricity to power close to thirteen thousand homes annually.
The solar project is being developed by Kansas-based energy company TED renewables. Ian Edwards, the company’s project development manager, said his company plans to outright purchase the land for the project, instead of leasing it like most solar farms of a comparable size in the region.
"The three keys to any solar development are a willing community, available transmission, and a ready resource,” Edwards said. “We have found all three of those in the Dayton community."
Edwards said the timing of Gem City Solar, which has been under development for some time, worked out well considering that the regional grid operator, PJM, put some newer solar project proposals on hold for two years in April 2022.
The project’s anticipated output is 49.9 Megawatts (MW). That number is significant because if the output had been just a bit higher at 50 MW, the project would have been considered “utility-scale” and would have needed a permit from the Ohio Power Siting Board.
A number of permits for utility scale solar projects across the state have recently been denied by the OPSB. In one instance, the OPSB said that the application for Kingwood Solar in Greene County was rejected, in part, because of “the overwhelming number of public comments filed in the case, which largely disfavor the project.”
Edwards said his company plans to put pollinator plants underneath the panels (similar to the solar prairie at University of Dayton) and build fencing that lets local wildlife come and go. He said those design elements will create a diverse ecosystem in the project area.
“We do want this to be an environmentally friendly site and have ancillary benefits above and beyond the benefits that it will provide to the local community,” Edwards said.
Meg Maloney, a sustainability specialist with the city of Dayton, said they are doing their part to support the project. Maloney said that, by ordinance, solar panels on farmland are permitted in the city. Dayton's board of zoning appeals also approved a substation needed for the project last month.
“The project aligns with the city of Dayton's overall sustainability objective to make solar easy to install within city limits,” Maloney said. “We're happy that TED renewables chose the city of Dayton but a bigger shout out to the landowner who is supportive of renewables and wanted to turn their land into a solar field with native plants.”
Construction of Gem City Solar is expected to begin in 2024 and the project should be up and running by 2025, Edwards said.
Chris Welter is a reporter and corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.