WESTON — Otsego Local School District would see approximately $400,000 in annual tax revenues from the new 101-megawatt generating Juliet Solar project being proposed by 7X Energy.
“I think it’s an amazing asset for the public. I mean it’s clean energy, and you tie that to the property tax revenue and that’s good for everybody,” Weston Mayor Jeremy Schroeder said.
The 690-acre solar field would cover more than a square mile, making it slightly larger than the village. Plans have it sitting on both sides of Sand Ridge Road and adjacent to Weston Road, with about 30 acres inside the village. The balance of the field is roughly split between Milton and Weston Townships.
Once operational, the 101-megawatt project is expected to generate enough electricity to power 20,000 typical homes.
Wood County Auditor Matthew Oestreich explained the potential tax implications.
“Otsego school district will be the biggest beneficiary,” Oestreich said. “Should this thing happen, it’s a great thing for the Otsego school district.”
As a Qualified Energy Project, 7X would pay $7,000 per megawatt. There would also be an additional $500 to $2,000 per megawatt in taxes paid to the Wood County general fund. The final amount will be determined by the county commissioners.
Oestreich pointed out that the Bowling Green solar field pays the full $2,000 rate. That field generates 20 megawatts.
“It’s very similar to the one we already have, it’s just five times larger,” Oestreich said.
Of the $700,000 the Otsego would receive approximately 60%. The tax rates for the three entities vary between 57.7% to 60.9%, for an estimated $400,000.
Construction is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2022 and to begin generating electricity in 2023.
“The BG solar field was a great big assembly project, so it goes together fairly rapidly,” Andrew Kalmar, Wood County administrator, said.
The commissioners first heard of the project about six weeks ago, according to Kalmar.
The project will be sitting on private land.
Cliff Scher, of 7X, said landowner discussions began in 2019.
“We now have agreements in place and enough certainty on other issues to move forward with a preliminary design, public outreach and permitting,” Scher said.
Shad Kendall, Weston village council president, said that there is currently a test station with a single panel and weather testing equipment in the field.
“The solar panels will sit on racking attached to steel pilings driven into the ground. The panels will be mounted a few feet off of the ground and the soil underneath will be planted with native grasses, essentially a meadow. Pollinator-friendly species will also be planted in locations around the solar farm,” Scher said.
He said the Weston location was chosen because of its proximity to the bulk power transmission system and major transportation routes, availability and quality of solar resource, topography, land use, limited sensitive ecological and cultural resources, and most importantly, landowner interest and participation.
“It should be a pretty low impact construction project area,” Scher said. “We want to be good neighbors.”
Letters about the project were mailed out by 7X Energy to nearby residents this week.
“It’s unlike other commercial activity. All the construction, traffic and noise is all in the construction. There will be no long lines of employees on the roads with shift changes and no people moving in, because there will only be two employees, so it’s intriguing,” Kalmar said. “While this project will add to the Otsego schools, it will not add students.”