BG solar field forecast called bright

Category: City
by GoBGOhio.
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Posted: Monday, March 13, 2017 9:17 am By PETER KUEBECK, Sentinel-Tribune City Editor Results are sunny so far for Bowling Green’s fledgling solar installation. Utilities Director Brian O’Connell said they’re looking forward to the field’s output this summer, when demand for electrical power is higher. “We’re looking forward to the first summer, when we see what it will do,” he said in a recent interview. The solar site, situated on 165 acres along Carter Road, northeast of the city, began producing electricity commercially in mid-January. The city is partnering with American Municipal Power and solar developer NextEra Energy on the project, which has been called the largest such facility in the state of Ohio. NextEra owns and operates the installation and sells the power is produces to AMP, which in turn sells it to its members, including Bowling Green. The 85,000-panel installation has a 20-megawatt capacity, with the city subscribing to 13.74 megawatts of that output. The project is expected to supply the equivalent energy to power 3,000 homes. O’Connell said that since it has gone into operation, the site has hit the maximum 20 megawatts several times when conditions have been ideal. “Really, it’s been operating as we expected. We’ve hit the 20 megawatt mark. I think what we’re going to see, as we get into the better production months, as we get into June, July, August and September, which is really when we want to see the maximum production from the facility — that’s when they have more energy usage from customers — I think we’re going to see pretty good results.” O’Connell also said that, since the energy from the facility is tied into a high-voltage transmission line, the city’s electrical system hasn’t seen the kind of negative effects other communities sometimes see. He said that when solar is tied into a lower-voltage distribution system, because output dips when there is cloud-cover, issues can occur, like flickering lights. “We’ve not seen any operation problems from our end, from customers or our own substation equipment.” He also said he hadn’t heard of any maintenance issues so far at the site. O’Connell said NextEra has an employee who watches the facility, and it is also monitored remotely. The city’s wind turbines, and the solar installation have seemingly opposite — and complimentary — best operating periods. Turbines, O’Connell said, typically work best in the breezy fall and winter months, dropping off in the summer. Conversely, for solar, summer is key. “That’s when you’ll see the best energy production out of the project.” O’Connell explained that solar “is a great peaking resource because it will be producing energy at the time when customers are using the most energy,” due to air conditioning usage in the summertime. “That’s what really drives customer load, is the air conditioning demand from customers. Typically, when you have higher loads, there’s more demand on the electrical system, energy prices on the market are higher.” With this project, in which prices for the produced energy are set to remain fixed for 25 years, those kind of issues can be mitigated. “I don’t need (solar) all the time, but I need it during those hot summer months when” demand is high, O’Connell said. “We had a need for a peaking resource in our portfolio,” O’Connell said, and solar fit the bill.

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