Public Universities Can Spur Renewable Energy
Ohio's largest solar energy farm in Upper Sandusky shows how Ohio State University Extension plays a vital role in developing renewable energy projects, generating much needed economic activity, and creating jobs throughout the state. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
The Wyandot Solar Farm was unveiled on Aug. 19 and was attended by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Ohio State University President Gordon Gee, and representatives from New Jersey-based PSEG Solar Source, which owns the project.
This facility has the capacity to generate 12 megawatts of electricity, making it one of the largest solar farms east of the Mississippi. The number of ground mounted solar panels on 80 acres of former farmland exceeds 159,000. This number of solar panels translates to providing electricity to about 9000 homes when the sun shines. It also translates to eliminating 14,030 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.
More importantly, this project has taught the OSU Extension many lessons in designing, building, installing, "harvesting" electricity, and even selling it back to American Electric Power. Experience in doing all the above makes OSU Extension a valuable resource for communities across Ohio and beyond; to anyone interested in taking advantage of renewable energy development opportunities.
OSU Extension can now help communities evaluate their assets, determine what kind of energy those assets would support, as well as help them understand which sites would be beneficial or counterproductive.
Hopefully, such projects will muster more momentum as time passes, opening doors to new economic development opportunities for urban and rural communities in Ohio and in other states as well.
Interestingly, the project was initially met with skepticism. Back in January 2009, when Eric Romich, an OSU Extension economic development and regional planning educator who also leads the Wyandot County Office of Economic Development, received a phone call from Juwi Solar (a Boulder, Colorado-based company that designed and built the facility) asking if Wyandot County would consider a solar power generation project, Romich admits that he looked outside at the winter weather and didn't think that solar power could work. Yet, there it stands today, the largest solar energy farm in Upper Sandusky!Continued on the next page