6 October 2010


Spanish CPV firms to build Ohio production facilities

Ohio state Governor Ted Strickland has announced agreements to create Turning Point Solar LLC, a 49.9MW solar array to be built on strip-mined land adjacent to The Wilds nature conservancy in southeastern Ohio which, if operating today, would be the USA’s largest photovoltaic array.

At signing ceremonies in Governor Strickland’s cabinet room, Michael G. Morris, CEO of American Electric Power (AEP) of Columbus, OH — which is one of the USA's largest electric utilities — signed a memorandum of understanding with Turning Point Solar LLC joint venture partners New Harvest Ventures (a renewable energy development firm led by Woodland Venture Management co-founders David Wilhelm and Craig Overmyer) and Agile Energy Inc of San Bruno, CA (which develops utility-scale photovoltaic plants in North America) to enter into a 20-year purchase agreement for the facility’s entire power output.

Pending approval of incentives to be provided by state and local governments, Spanish firms Isofoton of Malaga (which makes large, 275W concentrated photovoltaic panels) and Prius Energy S.L. of Albacete (which produces sun tracking equipment and racks for panels) have agreed to open new manufacturing facilities in Ohio to help construct the 239,400 panel solar array. About 300 jobs will be needed to build the project at peak construction. Prius and Isofoton have also agreed to locate their North American operations in Ohio, creating more than 300 permanent manufacturing jobs.

“The factory will be built with local suppliers for local end-users, and with a mandate to create good and green local jobs in close partnership with Ohio’s public sector energy leaders and private sector utilities,” says Isofoton's CEO Angel Luis Serrano. “We look forward to becoming a dedicated contributor to Ohio’s economy, putting locally manufactured Isofoton PV cells on Prius trackers,” he adds.

“Turning Point Solar will bring renewable energy to Ohioans at a reasonable rate, utilize reclaimed mine land in an innovative way, and bring new construction and manufacturing jobs to Appalachian Ohio,” says New Harvest Ventures partner David Wilhelm.

Last week, Strickland signed an executive order eliminating Ohio’s tangible personal property tax and real property tax for advanced and renewable energy project facilities, with the aim of making it easier for energy companies to do business and create jobs in Ohio. In 2008, he also signed an energy reform bill (Ohio Substitute Senate Bill 221) that calls for 25% of all energy consumed by Ohioans to come from advanced energy sources by 2025. Of that, 0.5% must be solar energy.

Construction and commercial operation of the facility will be phased in over three years. About 20MW should be in commercial operation by late 2012, 15MW added by the end of 2013, and the remaining 14.9MW online by the end of 2014.

Turning Point Solar is using a tract of at least 500 acres of reclaimed land strip-mined by the Central Ohio Coal Company between 1969 and 1991 using the Big Muskie, then the world's largest dragline and one of the world's largest mobile earth-moving machines. Big Muskie removed more than 608,000,000 cubic yards (465,000,000m3) of overburden (twice as much earth as was moved during construction of the Panama Canal).

Turning Point Solar is adjacent to The Wilds wildlife park (which was created from 10,000 acres of the reclaimed land and opened in 1994), and occupies about 1000 fallow acres of the reclaimed land owned by the nature conservancy and the AEP. Prairie planting tests are currently being conducted as part of plans to transform the land under the solar panels into an organic carbon sink. “We can restore our land while we improve our energy diversity and security,” comments Wilds executive director Evan Blumer. Zane State University and Hocking College have both developed programs to train workers in a variety of green jobs programs including the essential skills needed to build and maintain solar operations such as Turning Point.

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