Commissioners hear Weston solar field concerns

    Members of the Solar Farm Task Force of Weston presented concerns about the proposed 7X Energy Solar Farm
    to the Wood County Commissioners.
    While no vote was taken Tuesday by the commissioners, the task force asked for a legally binding
    expectation on the part of 7X regarding several aspects of installation and property maintenance.
    Three members of the task force, as well as 7X representative Cliff Scherr, were part of the meeting.
    Scherr attended virtually through Zoom.
    Among the concerns the residents presented to the commissioners were health issues, water management,
    property values, property taxes and horizon pollution.
    Scherr met with the group last week and toured several properties with task force members. At the meeting
    a concession was made to have setbacks of a 100-foot distance from all adjacent property lines and a
    50-foot distance from roadways.
    All of the issues hinge on the proximity of the solar panels to the property owners with residences
    adjacent to the solar field.
    Task force member Tom Halladay spoke about concerns related to the effects on leech fields, wells, water
    table, water lines and drain tiles.
    The solar panels will have pylons driven in the ground to as much as a 9-foot depth, which Halladay
    believes could hit and break drain tiles.
    “If you break a field tile, you’re not going to notice it like you do a water line. It’s going to wait
    until it’s filled with dirt and mug and plugs that up, then all your sewage backs up into your house and
    your house becomes uninhabitable,” Halladay said.
    Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said that many of the drain tile locations were mapped for the county, but
    understood that many are not. It’s also unknown whether they are modern plastic tile or the more fragile
    and older clay ones.
    “Only the person who laid the tile knows the configuration,” Halladay said.
    Residents are concerned about the panels disturbing their sight line and resulting potential loss in
    property value.
    A University of Rhode Island study found that home prices within a mile of a solar installation declined
    by 1.7% and within a tenth of a mile went down by 7%.
    Scherr disputes the applicability of the study. He said that the installation removed green space in a
    residential area that was already low on it, while it Weston the land is agricultural.
    In addition to requesting payments from 7X, the Task Force has also requested “a dense, two-row deep,
    sight-line buffer of arborvitae options along at the very least, the perimeter of the project property
    lines that align with affected property owners property lines,” task force member Suzy Saunders said.

    Arborvitae are dense evergreen shrubs that grow up to 35 feet tall and as fast as 3 feet per year.
    Task force member Don Schooner, owner of Schooner Farms, said that the added benefit of these shrubs
    would be wind and blowing snow blockage, which is a problem along Sand Ridge Road.
    Debate over the type and amount of blocking vegetation continues, but 7X has provided other types of
    plants for the purpose at another location.
    Halladay said that the buffer vegetation becomes more important as more sides of the property are
    bordered by solar panels, calling the houses bordered on four sides “islands.”
    Commissioner Ted Bowlus suggested that residents contact their cardiologists regarding the potential
    health issues related to the potential effects of electromagnetic fields generated by the solar power
    generation on pacemakers and defibrillators.
    In a follow-up interview, Scherr supplied information on EMF risks.
    He said that the task force magnetic fields potentially generated by a series of power inverters wouldn’t
    be an issue because there will be only a single inverter for every 25 acres of land.
    “The electromagnetic field generated on a solar farm on the outside of a fence would be one
    one-thousandth of the minimum level that pacemakers are tested for,” Scherr said. “The EMF levels at the
    site boundary are expected to be 0.2 to 0.5 milligauss (mG), while the EMF levels of a vacuum cleaner,
    six inches away from the motor, is 300 mG, and decreases to 2 mG at three feet away.”
    Both the task force and 7X Energy will be researching issues further for commissioners.
    “After this meeting, we still aren’t feeling like we’re being heard by him particularly,” Saunders said.
    “We want to work with them and we do want to find some compromises.”
    Schooner thinks that the negotiations, particularly with the barrier wall design, could set precedent for
    future solar field design.
    The task force was put together in January, after a mailer from 7X was received by members.
    The proposed 101 megawatt solar field in Weston would be approximately a square mile of land, or 690
    acres, making it approximately five times the size of the AMP Energy solar field that is operational in
    Bowling Green.
    Once operational, the 101-megawatt project is expected to generate enough electricity to power 20,000
    typical homes.
    Total combined annual revenue for county entities would be $707,000.
    Otsego Local Schools would be the largest beneficiary, receiving $424,931 in tax revenue annually.
    Also benefiting from the project would be Wood County, Milton Township, Weston Township, the Village of
    Weston, Penta County Joint Vocational School District, the Wood County Health Department and the Weston
    Public Library.
    It will be located east of the Village of Weston around Sand Ridge Road between Milton and Weston Roads.
    The site would have between 250,000 and 400,000 solar panels.
    The field will be almost exactly a square mile in size. It is made up of a number of pieces of property
    that, except for being on both sides of Sand Ridge Road, the property is all connected. However, 30
    properties will border the solar field.
    • 11 properties will be bordered by solar panels on one side;
    • 4 properties will have two bordered sides;
    • 5 properties will have three bordered sides;
    • 10 properties on Sand Ridge Road will have all four sides bordered.