How a solar energy company is planning on making its mark among Harrison’s oil, gas, and coal

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Photo provided by Nottingham Solar. The proposed solar panel project being engineered by Nottingham Solar, a subsidiary of BQ Energy, will be in the New Athens area just off Stumptown Road. BQ leased the property from Consol back in 2019.

CADIZ—In a land that coal once dominated and is heavy in the oil and gas fracking industry, solar power is attempting to make inroads into Harrison County. Commissioner Paul Coffland revealed at last week’s Community Improvement Corporation meeting a recent conference call between the commissioners and Nottingham Solar (a BQ Energy subsidiary). Coffland spoke positively about what took place and the future prospects for the county. “There’s a complete open book on what they’re doing and how they’re going to be doing it,” Coffland said. “So, it was very informational. [I] thought it was a good call.” 

“Nottingham Solar LLC (Nottingham Solar) is proposing a 100 MWac solar farm located in Athens Township, Harrison County, Ohio. Nottingham Solar has a long-term lease on a reclaimed coal surface mine. The Project will produce solar-powered electricity that will maximize energy production from available solar resources to deliver clean, renewable electricity to the Ohio bulk power transmission system, serving the needs of electric utilities and their customers,” according to Nottingham Solar’s project summary. 

BQ Energy’s (Nottingham Solar parent company) MO is searching for and procuring “brownfields:” land usually occupied by landfills and abandoned coal mine properties. BQ’s managing director Paul Curran said the company got the ball rolling back in 2019 when they leased the property in Athens Township from Consol Mining Company.

Curran said the process’s longest steps are studying the power grid’s interconnectivity, applying for the right to generate electricity, and working with the utility companies and their assessments. And along with that comes collaboration with PJM Connection, the company that operates local power grids and works with all other utility companies.

“Our company goes looking for brownfields and landfills exclusively so, this is an old coal property, and so it kind of naturally fell into our bailiwick,” Curran said, referring to how they ended up in Harrison County. “Many of these sites have old electrical lines that run into them where they’ve used power historically.” He said those lines mainly stay up, and the brownfields they look for aren’t where normal housing or business projects will take place, making the land purchase cheaper. 

“So, oftentimes, the interconnection is a little bit more, you know, compatible with the existing infrastructure that’s there,” Curran added as another reason for the site selection. As far as groundbreaking goes, it won’t take place in 2021. Though it’s possible to see something happen late next year, Curran said 2023 is not out of the question.

“It takes a while to build all of the infrastructure that we would need to our power lines and that kind of thing to get everything ready,” Curran explained.  

Curran said studies are still ongoing as the Ohio Power Siting Board is considering BQ’s application to move forward, which was submitted near the beginning of August. 

When asked about the possibility of the Harrison Power Plant coming to fruition — a project owned by EmberClear that has been in the works for the past three to four years, Curran said it wasn’t necessarily competition for the Nottingham project. “I don’t know if we’re competition,” he began. “You know, electricity is a funny world where people buy power of different flavors nowadays.” He noted the older power plants are retiring, “and so you know, two new ones don’t really compete that much with each other.” 

Curran wished well the prospects of the Harrison Power Plant after being told of its promise for years but still has not produced results. He then shared the story of a Hudson Valley (New York) power plant finally built after spending nearly 10 years in the works. 

Nottingham’s Solar Project estimates that it’ll employ 400 construction jobs (for approximately nine months) with 20 part- and full-time openings once the plant is operational. Additional stats state that the plant would add $700,000 “to local tax rolls annually,” with 59% going to the school district, 26% to Harrison County, and the remaining 15% to the library, township, health services, and jobs and family services. It is estimated that $21 million would be poured into the community over a 30-year period.

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