Solar energy provider and developer Solarvision, LLC, presented the Ohio city of Celina with a check for $600,000 this month as solar licensing fees to erect a 3 megawatt solar energy field on the northern 20-acre tract within what will become the Celina Renewable Energy Center.

This earmarks the official start of Phase I of the Celina Renewable Energy Center encompassing the purchase of a 60-acre tract zoned for industrial services along Meyer Road just south of State Route 29.

The City closed on the purchase of the land on May 13, 2011. The Celina Renewable Energy Center will include the solar field, a biogas plant, lake sediment ponds and manmade wetlands.

Under Phase II of the plan, which was signed into contract with SolarVision on April 12, 2011, the City will receive a licensing fee of $700,000 to build an additional 2 megawatts of solar power on an additional 10-acre tract.

This project is the sixth and largest solar power installation for SolarVision in the state of Ohio. The 3 megawatt solar system will encompass approximately 12,000 solar panels on 18 of the 25-acre tract which also houses an existing cell tower.

The City of Celina signed a Solar Power Purchase Agreement with SolarVision on December 7, 2010 to purchase all of the solar plant’s electrical output.

The system will be owned, operated, insured and maintained by SolarVision. As a part of the transaction, SolarVision secured $17.7 million in new market tax credits and financing through First Merit Bank.

Anaerobic digester

The Celina Renewable Energy Center has been three years in the making for Kent Bryan, PE, planning and community development director.

Bryan was working on a solution to clean-up Grand Lake St. Marys when Mike Dickman, vice president of construction for SolarVision came knocking on his door last fall. Dickman presented a plan to pay the City of Celina a solar licensing fee, enabling the City to purchase 60 acres of privately owned land and relocate the City’s troubled sediment ponds from a location along U.S. 127.

The cost to the City of Celina is minimal. “This is all private investor-driven development. It is a public-private partnership,” explains Bryan.

The project allows the City to dredge sediment from Grand Lake St. Marys—the City’s drinking water source—and pump it into new settlement ponds that will encompass 10-acres of the site.

The nutrient-rich sediments will then be recycled into an organic peat and sold for soil fertilization. Five acres of the site will be allocated to house an Anaerobic Digester which will allow the City to process algae from Grand Lake St. Marys and manure from the Lake’s watershed into a biogas byproduct that can be used for electric power generation.

The City has entered into a power purchase agreement with Optional Energy Partners, Inc. which will be solely responsible for the ownership, design, construction, financing, and operations of the digester plant.

The final 30 acres will be allocated to the solar power system which will provide the City with a long term competitive source of energy over the next 20 years. The system will provide up to 8% of the City’s annual energy requirements; much of that power will be delivered during peak demand times.

“Our goal is to generate 30 percent of our energy locally,” states Bryan. “When we generate energy that connects directly into the City’s electrical distribution system, we don’t have additional power transmission fees.”

“The solar energy will be produced on sunny days when additional power is needed and will feed into the main City lines, so all electric customers will be receiving solar energy. Residents will also benefit from the lower energy rates as a part of the 20-year agreement the City has with SolarVision.”

As a result of the passage of SB 221 in 2008, nearly two years ago, the alternative energy industry has been gaining momentum in Ohio. A number of solar projects have either been completed or are in the planning stages, a number of commercial wind projects have been permitted by the Ohio Power Sitting Board, several of which are under construction.

SolarVision has more than 12 projects in various stages of development and negotiation in the state of Ohio, totaling more than 25 megawatts of power to be completed in 2011.