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Environment

Cincinnati's solar array has been stalled by supply chain issues

solar panel
Becca Costello
/
WVXU
An example of the solar panels to be used for Cincinnati's Highland County array, shown at the project groundbreaking in 2021.

Part of Cincinnati's 100 megawatt solar array will come online in March, about three months behind schedule.

City officials broke ground on the project last spring and expected the first phase to be complete by December.

"Due to supply chain issues, access to steel and the delivery of solar panels, we're looking to energize in March 15 of this year," said Michael Forrester, director of the city's Office of Environment and Sustainability. "Currently there's over 150 acres of solar panels installed and ready to go. We're just waiting, essentially, to develop the plug that can launch it up into the utility grid."

The city has been working on the project for nearly six years, partnering with several energy companies and the farmers who own the land. The array is being constructed in 900 acres in Highland County, about 40 miles east of Cincinnati.

The section coming online first is enough to generate 24 megawatts of power a year.

"We still do need to secure additional panels to complete the remaining 76 megawatts of power," Forrester said. "Those will be coming online as available."

About a third of the total electricity generated will go toward powering city government buildings, making up about 25% of the city's energy needs.

The rest will go to residents through the Energy Aggregation Program, which allows the city to negotiate utility prices on behalf of citizens and small businesses.

"We don't have a clear completion date at this point in time, but are optimistic," Forrester said. "As COVID starts to hopefully wane, we'll get more panels to fully complete the array."

The city is not paying for construction, so the delays won't increase the price tag. A power purchase agreement means the city will pay for the energy as its generated, without any up-front costs.