Population: The population for the impacted area is too large for such a large facility. The impacted area (Townships: Duchouquet, Logan & Shawnee) does not fit the description as a low-density population area. Solar farms the size of the proposed Birch farm are in very rural areas or in the deserts of Arizona, Nevada and California. The population for the township involved is over 28,000 citizens.
Lost Tax Revenue: The Developer will seek an agreement with Allen and Auglaize County Commissioners to forego paying traditional utilities taxes for the development and instead pay a Payment IN LIEU OF TAXES (or PILOT agreement) .
Community Benefits: None of the electricity produced will benefit the local community. No more than 5-7 jobs will be offered after construction. Access to the local electrical grid infrastructure is the primary reason that the developer selected the area.
Long-term sustainability: Located within one mile of the project are neighborhoods, schools as well as ponds, and wetland areas. The future of the area depends on having townships that are attractive. Exposing residents to the health, fire, environmental and safety risks associated with a large scale utility complex makes no sense. Additional risks include localized flooding, contamination and negatively impacting wildlife and property values.
Land Uses: The impacted area has successfully achieved a desirable balance of land uses (commercial district that provides goods and services; targeted land for accessible industrial developments and the preservation of cultivated cropland) that has provided an important competitive advantage that will be lost with the Birch project. For the impacted area industrial land use is concentrated in the far northeastern portion of Shawnee Township. The area has benefited from a successful industrial park with an oil refinery, chemical plant, military-related tank plant, and other industrial concerns. Industrial scale complexes with miles of fence and internal access roads are at the Shawnee Road corridor, from Fort Amanda Road south to Breese Road. An additional industrial complex does not need to be added as the area will no longer maintain its rural, industrial, cultivated cropland, cultural and historic elements. Maintaining the desired balance of land uses will be eliminated with the Birch project. We encourage you to review the 2009 Shawnee Township Comprehensive Plan (click here).
Total Impact: No other area in Ohio with a similar population (Shawnee 12,433; Logan 1,333; Duchouquet 14,499) has a solar project this large being proposed. The community surrounding Birch has been provided no empirical data to refute the argument that we make that the Birch project is high risk as there are no comparable projects in regards to project size (megawatts), acreage, population density, and total number of adjoining homeowners. When you consider the possible risks involved, the local residents are the subjects of experimentation and research.
Community Benefits: The project lacks long term local benefits. The electric will not be sold locally to bring down our local utility rates. After construction less than 5-7 full-time jobs will be created. At the conclusion of the project the area will have 2,234-acres that will be difficult to use again. No special treatment should be given to a project that has so little to offer; particularly given the risk involved.
Concerns About the Developer
LBP has NO experience running a facility this size in a populated area. Review the website: https://www.lightsourcebp.com/us/projects/ They have experience with solar facilities ranging from 9-163MW. The 300MW they built was for EVRAZ North America, and it is located in an industrial park, not a residential community. The other projects (Impact=260; Peony=315; Bellflower) are all in the planning phase along with Birch.
BP was a previous employer in Lima and attempted to hurt our community. The Nation article, "A Town Betrayed," stated "The rub is that B.P. has determined that the rate of financial return at Lima is not high enough--that the investment it makes in Lima could produce even more if used differently When the rate of financial return declines on the Birch facility it will be closed or sold. History will repeat itself. Link: https://www.questia.com/magazine/1G1-19603369/a-town-betrayed-the-closing-of-the-british-petroleum Even the Wall Street Journal reported on how BP attempted to hurt Lima: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB858811470783373500
LBP is considered unethical by their own employees. On glassdoor.com a Lightsource BP employee says, "This company is very much 'do as I say/coats on the back of chairs' it's incredible that in a renewable business that such an archaic view to leadership is taken. Legal council isn't listened to, new ideas are rejected and when compliance is mentioned the phrase 'we won't be doing things by the book' was used."
The man leading the Birch Solar Project is Kevin Smith, CEO of Lightsource BP. CEO. Kevin Smith directed the failed Crescent Dunes until he moved to Lightsource BP. The Wall Street Journal recently called Crescent Dunes a "green boondoggle," and reported that it could cost taxpayers $510 million. Link https://gvwire.com/2020/12/14/opinion-another-green-subsidy-bust/. Link: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-01-06/a-1-billion-solar-plant-was-obsolete-before-it-ever-went-online How does this relate to Birch Solar, LLC? Crescent Dunes was high risk and Kevin Smith directed the project. The proposed Birch project is high risk,and again Kevin Smith is the CEO of the company leading the program. Mr. Smith needs to learn from his previous failed risk. This time the facility has neighbors. Mr. Smith's Crescent Dunes project just highlighted as an example of egregious wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. https://justthenews.com/accountability/waste-fraud-and-abuse/hold-doe-spent-more-500-million-solar-power-plant-never-became?fbclid=IwAR2OC-1qX6_Lih_VbIClejsHloFqWihqysTrRBSjWHWKJUiQ9CE76aoWaiM
LBP specifically made the Birch Solar 1 a separate business entity: Birch Solar 1, LLC. By making Birch a separate company, LBP is strategically limiting their exposure to financial, environmental and safety problems that will take place with running the solar plant. Through the LLC structure, Lightsource BP minimizes disclosure requirements and will be able to close Birch without major penalties. As engineering advances make solar conversion technologies more efficient, Birch will become financially unsustainable leading Lightsource BP to conclude that “the rate of financial return” is insufficient necessitating that Birch needs disposed of thus reneging on the commitments to taxpayers and landowners.
Lightsource BP has failed to evaluate the adverse effects of the project’s 40+ miles of fences on wildlife species that currently travel from their places of residence inside and outside of the project area throughout the project area to forage and hunt. There has also been a failure to evaluate the adverse effects on wildlife that will no longer be able to travel from one pocket of wildlife-friendly habitat to another due to the obstructions from the project’s fences. The faculty at the University of California Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management published a comprehensive study in BioScience that found that "fences have measurable effects at every ecological scale.” The introduction of more than 28 miles of chain link fence at the Birch project will certainly have measurable effects at every ecological scale as stressed in the BioScience article.
Lightsource BP is a 50:50 joint venture with BP. BP is the world’s most controversial oil company. This results from BP’s involvement in multiple major environmental and industrial accidents. The criticism of BP is deserved. The Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers. Spewing millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf, BP created the most serious environmental disaster in U.S. history. The worst worker safety record is notable as well. At BP’s Texas City refinery accident 15 workers died and about 180 were injured in a massive explosion. OSHA fined the company $21.4 million for nearly 300 “egregious” safety violations.
Lightsource BP has offered no research based examples of successful equivalent projects in communities that are similar to the impacted area for Birch. All of the studies that they have identified are for small solar farms or large solar farms that are in highly remote locations; particularly in the Western U.S. The starting point for a discussion is to show documentation in peer reviewed academic journals refuting the argument that the Birch project is not high risk.
Lightsource BP has offered no detailed plan to protect the existing storm water drainage patterns that protect the nearby landowners from being flooded by runoff from the project area. No plan has been offered to address noise, dust, and traffic that will be very intrusive during the project’s construction. No plan has been offered to protect the environment from potential spills of drilling fluids that could flow down hilly terrain and into streams that are not sufficiently identified in the application. LBP offers no plan to protect the groundwater supplies in the area. The LBP CEO told the Lima News in early November that they have been working on the project for nearly a year. With nearly a year of planning it is unacceptable that the community has such little information. Apparently the project map is still changing. Solar companies rarely change the map after the community meetings.
The balance of power between the developer, Lightsource BP, and local residents of modest means is unfair. Lightsource frequently provides misleading information to local residents.