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Planned Cincinnati Solar Project Could Be Largest In U.S.

Cincinnati is trying to figure out where to put lots of solar panels in what could be the largest solar project on city owned property in the U.S. This picture is of existing solar panels on Beekman St.

The City of Cincinnati is expected to put out a request for proposals next month in what could be the largest solar array by a city on city property. The 25 mega-watt project would power 25 percent of the city's energy needs.

Energy Manager Michael Forrester stands on one of a dozen possible sites that could power a portion of Cincinnati's energy needs, the former Center Hill landfill. "This is a great site because it's large," he says. "Very rarely in the City of Cincinnati do you have 60 acres of underutilized land that you can put a whole bunch of solar on." There are two 30 acre plots. Only one would be used.

Even if Center Hill is chosen Forrester and the Director of the Office of Environment and Sustainability, Larry Falkin, say it is only big enough for half of the project. Additional sites would be needed.

Credit Casey Weldon / City of Cincinnati
City of Cincinnati
WVXU's Ann Thompson, Larry Falkin (center) and Michael Forrester (right) discuss possible plans for solar at the Center Hill landfill.

Falkin's office estmates it can place solar panels on that Center Hill field producing about 10,200,000 kilowatt hours per year. That would offset the emissions from just over 800 homes using natural gas or 1,100 homes for electricity-only use.

Mayor John Cranley says this is the ultimate "think globally, act locally" project. "The cost of solar is far cheaper than at least 25 percent of our energy consumption," he says. "So at least for the first 25 mega-watts there will be no additional cost to the taxpayers. When it's literally cheaper to do a renewable source and is better for the environment it's almost unforgivable not to do it."

Cranley estimates the project will be done sometime next year.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.