Cincinnati officials broke ground Thursday on the largest municipally led solar array project in the country. The New Market Solar Project is being constructed on nearly 900 acres in Highland County, about 40 miles east of Cincinnati.
"If every major city, county, and major company like Fifth Third — who went solar this year — did something equivalent, we would see a CO2 reduction in the state, in this country, of over 20 to 25%," said Mayor John Cranley.
The city has been working on the project for about five years, partnering with several energy companies and the farmers who own the land.
Michael Forrester, director of the Office of Environment and Sustainability, says the city's power purchase agreement means no taxpayer money up front.
"This is money that we're going to spend for the next 20 years no matter what," Forrester said. "Instead of pulling it off of the nebulous grid, we're pulling off a local solar energy project."
Forrester say the city's 20-year contract locks in the price for purchasing the energy.
The array will generate about 75 megawatts per year, or about 18% of city's total energy needs. It's enough energy to power the entire city government. Officials estimate the array will save taxpayers $1.8 million over the next two decades.
Cranley says the best solutions for the climate change crisis are between the political extremes, in what he calls "the American way."
"Which is ingenuity, capitalism, working together," he said. "A win-win for landowners, and for technology, and for workers."
The project includes about 160 jobs in Highland County, mostly for electrical workers. Dan Shirey of IBEW Local 575 says the median salary will be about $62,000 a year.
Construction is expected to be complete in December.