September 18, 2023 at 2:31 p.m.

Plans continue despite delays

Renewable energy firms remain optimistic about Jay County projects
Solar proposed
Solar proposed

Solar farm development in Jay County has been mostly static for months.

A few bursts of movement have recently fueled some renewable energy companies forward. Still, delays are expected.

Scout Clean Energy, Invenergy and Leeward Renewable Energy are developing Skycrest Solar, Rose Gold Solar and Sun Chief Solar, respectively, in Jay County.

Delays with the PJM Interconnection process have impacted each of the companies.

According to its website, PJM Interconnection is a regional transmission organization coordinating wholesale electricity movement across 13 states and the District of Columbia. Among other duties, PJM Interconnection conducts grid studies, calculating upgrade needs to the power grid and costs. 

PJM Interconnection announced plans in April 2022 to revamp its analysis process for new services joining the power grid, meaning projects would likely be delayed as they work through the new process. It was expected to go into effect by the first quarter of 2023.

One of Jay County’s upcoming solar farms has already jumped over that hurdle.

Invenergy, the first renewable energy company to formally propose a solar farm in Jay County in 2021, signed its final interconnection agreement with PJM Interconnection in the summer. The company’s next steps include engineering studies and project design.

“It took longer than expected, but we do have a formal (agreement),” said Hannah Pawelczyk, project developer for Invenergy. 

The company started surveying Jay County and speaking with landowners in 2018. 

It’s planning Skycrest Solar, a solar energy center located on 2,500 acres in Penn and Jackson townships. The company will pay about $1.75 million in economic development payments to the county over the course of four years, the first coming when construction begins. Skycrest Solar will also result in an estimated additional $55 million in assessed value.

Skycrest Solar was “grandfathered” into the old analysis process with PJM Interconnection, explained Pawelczyk, meaning it was able to get through the process quicker than some of the other new services joining the power grid. 

Sun Chief Solar — it will be operated by Scout Clean Energy, which owns Bitter Ridge Wind Farm — wasn’t as lucky. (Scout Clean Energy is planning a $100 million, 100-megawatt facility on about 1,200 acres in the same area as its existing wind farm. The company will give about $1.3 million in economic development payments to the county over four years after construction is completed, and its facility will result in additional $38.9 million in assessed value.)

Scout Clean Energy project manager Zach Lasek noted PJM Interconnection recently opened its queue for new projects joining the power grid. Scout Clean Energy filed its request with the company Sept. 8.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty, you know, I think, from a timing perspective of when we’re going to get these studies back,” he explained. “It’s kind of the ‘hurry up and wait kind of scenario.’”

During a visit to Jay County for the fair in July, Scout officials spoke with landowners and voiced similar sentiments.

“All of us are equally disappointed that we can’t push the project forward until we get through this process,” he said. “If it was up to us, then we’d already have the interconnection agreement and we’d build it tomorrow if we could.”

It’s not just Sun Chief Solar, he added. Scout Clean Energy and other companies have seen delays across the board for projects.

While Scout Clean Energy is hopeful to finish Sun Chief Solar by its previous goal of 2025, Lasek said it’s not the most likely scenario. They anticipate project construction won’t be completed until 2026, meaning they would need to amend their permits and other agreements with the county.

Pawelczyk confirmed it is possible Invenergy could start construction on Skycrest Solar some time next year. Invenergy’s goal is to be operational by the end of 2026. (During proceedings with county government, it had anticipated construction in 2022 and to be operational as soon as 2024.)

Also on the horizon is Leeward Renewable Energy’s Rose Gold Solar, a $150 million, 150-megawatt facility located on about 1,430 acres just north of Dunkirk. (Leeward will give $1.95 million to the county in economic development payments over a four-year period after the facility begins generating electricity. It will also result in an additional $68.1 million in assessed value.) A spokesperson for Leeward Renewable Energy in December 2022 cited industry-wide delays and the PJM Interconnection process in an email and said the company expected construction could begin this fall. When asked for an interview in early September, another spokesperson for the company said in an email there are no project updates at this time.

NextEra Energy is also looking to join the solar energy trend in Jay County. The company has been surveying property in the southern part of the county near its existing Bluff Point Wind Energy Center, but no formal plans have been presented yet to local government or Jay/Portland Building and Planning.

Lasek noted during the development process there are often quiet periods and busy periods. Regardless, Scout Clean Energy is still planning to get its solar farm built in Jay County.

“We are still here and we’re still working the project,” he said

Despite the delays, Pawelczyk voiced optimism for Skycrest Solar and its impact in the county.

“We’re just excited to move it forward and start delivering benefits here in Jay County,”  Pawelczyk said. “We’re excited to work with Jay County … to get this project over the finish line.”

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