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Turning Point 49.9 MW solar PV project in Noble County (OH) with AEP all but dead; IndianaDG looked at it ‘longingly’ January 17, 2013

Posted by Laura Arnold in American Electric Power (AEP), Indiana Michigan Power Company (I&M), Uncategorized.
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Dear IndianaDG Readers:

There has been much speculation about whether the Turning Point solar project with American Electric Power (AEP) in Ohio would receive the “green light” from the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO). I am not an insider on this project by any means but I have been asking solar companies in Ohio about the prospects for this project with AEP for some time.

During the Indiana Michigan Power Company (I&M) general rate case before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) in Cause No. 44075. See https://indianadg.wordpress.com/iurc/indiana-utility-rate-cases/indiana-michigan-power-company-aep-44075/. That case is now completed and awaiting a decision by the IURC.  Inovateus Solar interevened and offered the testimony of Joseph Jancauskas urging that I&M develop and offer more renewable energy programs. In their concluding filings in this case I recall that Inovateus Solar advocated that the IURC create a “Green Energy” sub-docket to explore this.

Many of us here in Indiana following the Turning Point solar project with AEP in Ohio looked at this project longingly. Therefore, I am disappointed that the PUCO has rejected this proposed project at this point. Clearly, I plan to obtain and read the order on this matter and to try to understand what happened. In the meantime, if you have any information or a perspective on this recent action by the PUCO I would appreciate hearing it. OK? There seems to be more than just a little politics surrounding this.

Laura Ann Arnold

P.S. Please see next blog post: PUCO chief blasts ‘green’ energy on Twitter. This only gets better people.

Turning Point solar project in Noble County all but dead.

By      Dan Gearino     

The Columbus Dispatch Wednesday January 9, 2013 7:59 PM

 A plan that was to give Ohio the largest solar array east of the Rockies is now all but dead, potentially costing hundreds of jobs.
American Electric Power is saying that actions today by regulators make it difficult to see how the 49.9 megawatt project near Zanesville can ever come together.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio voted 3-1 yesterday to strip the Turning Point Solar plan from a larger report about AEP’s projected power needs. The majority wrote that AEP didn’t prove the project is needed, and left it up to AEP to provide further justification.

While the commission says it remains open to exploring ways to make Turning Point happen, AEP spokeswoman Terri Flora says the vote is a severe blow that undoes years of work.

“‘Disappointed’ is the word I would use,” she said. “This is a missed opportunity.”

The Ohio Democratic Party and environmental groups seized on the decision, calling it  a job-killer and an abandonment of clean energy.

“This ruling is a slap in the face to clean energy, new jobs, and southeast Ohio,” Brian Kaiser, director of green jobs at the Ohio Environmental Council, said in a statement.
While AEP was to be the key buyer of power from the project, the developers were several other companies.

AEP was hoping the PUCO would allow the utility to pay for electricity from the project by making all customers pay for a portion of the costs through a new charge in utility bills. Previously, the agency has said it would allow charges like this if there was a clear need and if the free market was not going to provide a similar resource. The PUCO’s staff had said the project was needed, part of a larger agreement with AEP.

The PUCO’s governing board decided to reject its staff’s advice, an action that leaves AEP with no clear method of paying for the project. Steve Lesser, the only Democrat on the panel, cast the dissenting vote.

The larger issue is Ohio’s continuing movement toward energy deregulation, which means projects like this would no longer be paid for by mandatory charges. Several business groups urged the commission to reject AEP’s plan because it would go against the idea of free markets.

If the PUCO had approved the plan, it would likely have been challenged in court, and the opponents felt good about their chances.

Turning Point, estimated at one time to cost $250 million, was announced in October 2010 with much fanfare by AEP and then-Gov. Ted Strickland in the closing weeks of a gubernatorial campaign. He said it would lead to 300 permanent manufacturing jobs and 300 construction jobs.

Isofoton, a Spanish solar-components company, chose Napoleon, Ohio, as the site for a factory partly to be near Turning Point. The plant is now open with a small number of employees, with plans to ramp up to 300. It is not clear how the PUCO action will affect those plans.

Critics suggested that Turning Point’s main purpose was to promote Strickland.

“It had all the trappings of a political stunt to begin with,” said Sam Randazzo, an attorney for Industrial Energy Users-Ohio, which has argued against the project.

The Ohio Democratic Party is blaming Gov. John Kasich, Strickland’s opponent in that election, for what has happened. Chris Redfern, the party chairman, noted that one of the project’s leading opponents is FirstEnergy, which is a key Kasich donor.

“It’s deeply disappointing that Gov. Kasich has given the appearance his administration is more interested in rewarding his campaign donors than supporting a project that would create more than 600 jobs, including many for veterans,” he said.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said in response: “We respect the independence of the commission, and its decision today had nothing to do with us. The PUCO enforced the rules that the previous administration and environmentalists wrote, yet they now want to change the rules of the game because they didn’t like the outcome. Perhaps these people should simply recognize the PUCO’s independence and let them do their job.”

dgearino@dispatch.com

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

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