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‘A cleaner future.’ Officials break ground on Cincinnati’s massive new solar array project

The facility is expected to generate enough electricity to power 100 percent of Cincinnati’s electricity consumption for all city-owned and operated services.
Cincinnati and energy company officials break ground on a new solar array in Highland County,...
Cincinnati and energy company officials break ground on a new solar array in Highland County, May 13, 2021.(Briana Rice/Enquirer)
Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 8:37 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (Enquirer) - In an open field in Highland County, typically used for soybean and corn, Cincinnati leaders and partners broke ground on what officials are calling the largest municipal solar array in the country, according to our media partners at the Enquirer.

The sun was out while around 40 people gathered near Sardinia, Ohio to break ground and celebrate the new solar panels. Some sat inside a tent. Others stood out in the sun, listening to officials and locals share how this project came to be in Highland County.

Yasmin Chilton, a spokeswoman for Mayor John Cranley’s office, said the New Market Solar project will contain more than 310,000 solar panels – equivalent to the size of 750 football fields.

It’s taken over five years of planning, but the new array is expected to generate 203,000 megawatt-hours of energy each year, enough to power 100% of Cincinnati’s electricity consumption for all city-owned and operated services, including Greater Cincinnati Water Works, City Hall and all police districts.

The solar panels will also provide about 25% of the power to 80,000 homes that have opted-in to get renewable energy.

The site will be operational in December.

“There’s been a history in the Midwest, and Ohio, of people taking our resources and not leaving much for us,” Cranley said during the conference. “We owe it to our kids and grandkids to move to a cleaner future.”

During the Thursday groundbreaking, representatives from Cincinnati government, Highland County, Hecate Energy and the landowners spoke about the benefits of the project.

Michael Forrester, Director of Cincinnati’s Office of Environment and Sustainability, said the city will not be putting any money into the project upfront but will begin to buy the energy once it is ready.

The solar array is one way Cincinnati can fight climate change, he said.

“We are fortunate here in Cincinnati and in Ohio to not be threatened by hurricanes and wildfires and we have reliable supplies of water. But in Cincinnati, we are still experiencing this change,” Forrester said. “We see our hills slide. We see intense rainstorms that are causing micro flooding in our communities and sewer back-ups.”

The project costs more than $125 million, but it is funded through a power-purchasing agreement, meaning Cincinnati agreed upfront to purchase the electricity generated from the array over the 20-year life of the contract.

By negotiating a fixed price, the city expects to save $1.8 million over the 20-year contract.

New Market Solar will bring at least 160 construction jobs to the area, and Cranley says the jobs it brings will pay at least $62,000 a year and include benefits.

“We’re bringing economic hope to our part of small-town America,” said Doug Carraher, part-owner of the land.

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