Solar farm coming to southern Stark County? Township zoning board to vote on project

BETHLEHEM TWP. − The township Board of Zoning Appeals will meet Monday to decide whether to grant a conditional use permit to a Boston company to build a solar farm.

Galehead Development wants permission to install a 19.3-watt “pole-mounted solar energy system” on a 76.7-acre site just north of Bolivar and west of Interstate 77. The company would lease property at 8798 Beth Drive SW.

Galehead in a 2020 project document described itself as a “renewable energy and infrastructure development company.” It said the project was being financed by “American investors exclusively interested in advancing the development of competitive renewable generators.”

According to Galehead Development’s application submitted in September, this solar farm will be on four parcels zoned rural residential that total more than 317 acres. The land has Hudson Drive SW to the south, Sherman Church Avenue SW and I-77 to the east and Beth Avenue SW to the west. Berlin Mineral, with a post-office box address in Berlin in Holmes County, owns the properties.

solar farm coming to southern stark county? township zoning board to vote on project

Boston-based Galehead Development wants to build a 19.3-megawatt solar farm on a 75-acre site on these four parcels of Bethlehem Township that total more than 317 acres. The township’s Board of Zoning Appeals will consider Monday the company’s request for a conditional use.

“The proposed solar project will make use of the reclaimed mine property and help to bring clean energy to the power grid,” Galehead said in its application. “The proposed solar project will not substantially impact traffic in the area or create noise disturbances given its nature and design. The solar project will create a positive impact to the community.”

Because the site would generate less than 50 megawatts, the project owner does not need to apply for approval from the Ohio Power Siting Board, according to Matt Butler, a spokesman for the board.

Attorney Rod Moore of the local firm Black McCuskey, who’s representing Galehead Development, said, “Really there’s no additional information we can share at this time aside from the project application.”

The Board of Zoning Appeals meeting will be at 6 p.m. at Township Hall at 8600 Blough Ave. SW.

What does the Bethlehem Township solar farm project involve?

The Stark County Regional Planning Commission has conditionally approved the solar project. But that approval expires Sept. 17, 2025, according to board meeting minutes.

Galehead hopes to obtain all permits by around July and then start construction, which will take about a year. The project will generate 80 construction jobs during that year and 1.2 full-time equivalent long-term jobs.

The facility is expected to last at least 35 years. The solar panels are 10 feet tall and do not move. The area would be fenced and Galehead representatives said there are no adjoining residences.

Galehead representatives said they would present a drainage plan that would show how the site would handle water runoff. They would come up with a traffic plan with the Stark County Engineer’s Office apparently for the trucks that would bring in construction materials and equipment.

Township zoning inspector Scott Borojevich said no one has yet to express opposition to the solar farm.

Township Trustee T. Renee Veselenak said that she and township officials are trying to find out more about the solar project. She said this is the first time anyone has asked to construct a solar farm in the township since she became trustee in 2022.

Trustees Ronald Lambert and Jim Urbach could not be reached for comment.

How much is being invested?

The application includes a description of the project on a document labeled confidential apparently prepared for investors in 2020. It said the solar facility, called the Bolivar Solar Project, would be constructed with an investment then of $20 million.

The solar panel arrays, arranged in east to west rows, would generate electricity to be sold at market rates to customers connected to the mid-Atlantic power grid managed by regional transmission organization PJM.

The connection to the grid would be via a 34.5-kilovolt distribution line about half a mile away.

The document said Galehead would need to file paperwork or obtain permits from the Ohio Public Service Commission, Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio Historic Preservation Office, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Transportation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The document indicated that initial work on the project had started by around April 2019.

Reach Repository writer Robert Wang at [email protected]. X formerly Twitter: @rwangREP.

This article originally appeared on The Repository: Solar farm coming to southern Stark County? Township zoning board to vote on project

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