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Cincinnati to construct nation’s largest city-led solar project

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By Holly Stutz Smith 

Herald Contributor 

The City of Cincinnati will construct the largest municipal solar array in the country to provide clean, renewable energy to all City facilities and serve the City’s residents through the Cincinnati Electric Aggregation Program. Once complete, the 100 mega-watt solar array will reduce the region’s annual carbon emissions by 158,000 tons. 

“Cities need to take action – and that’s exactly what Cincinnati is doing. We are spending money we would already spend on power to buy lower-cost renewable energy that also benefits the community,” said Mayor John Cranley. 

The contract is a power purchase agreement, which means the city will not pay any upfront costs toward the actual construction of the solar farm. The contract also enables the city to purchase electricity at a fixed rate for the full 20 years of the contract, which will help hedge against any future electricity price increases. The agreement was facilitated by the World Resources Institute and Rocky Mountain Institute’s Renewables Accelerator, through support from the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge. 

“Cincinnati was selected as a winner in the American Cities Climate Challenge because of Mayor Cranley’s commitment to ambitious and impactful climate solutions— solutions which not only reduce carbon emissions, but also protect public health and create jobs. This offsite renewable deal is the latest example of Cincinnati’s ambition turned into achievement,” said Antha Williams, head of environmental programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “Cincinnati is showing how cities are leading the way to our clean energy future and paving the way for others in the region to follow suit.” 

The 100 MW solar farm will be installed roughly 40 miles east of downtown Cincinnati in Highland County, Ohio. The combined 100 MW solar array will be approximately 1,000 acres, or the equivalent of 750 football fields, and contain more than 310,000 solar panels. To put that into perspective, the solar array will provide enough electricity to power 25,000 homes every day. Moving to this solar set up is the equivalent of keeping 157,000,000 pounds of coal in the ground every year, removing 30,000 cars form the road annually or planting 2.4 million trees every year.  

“Cincinnati is a bright spot for clean energy not only in Ohio but among cities across the country that are leading the way to a more sustainable future,” said Daniel Sawmiller, Natural Resources Defense Council’s Ohio energy policy director. “This announcement of a significant city-led solar energy development creates a crucial economic opportunity for the Ohio and sets a new bar for cities that have committed to 100 percent renewable energy across the country.” 

In conjunction with Cincinnati State and IBEW Local 212 this solar development will implement a workforce skill and hiring program that will put Cincinnati residents to work on the project.

The 35 mega-watt array to serve the City of Cincinnati facilities is scheduled to go into service in December 2020. The additional 65-megawatt service to benefit residents through the aggregation program has a tentative go-live date of December 2021. 

“We commend Mayor Cranley for his leadership on renewable energy and the city’s bold action on climate,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, executive director of the Ohio Environmental Council.

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