SWACO joined Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther and other city, energy and community partners to announce that the planned Columbus Solar Park will power Clean Energy Columbus – the city's 100% clean energy aggregation initiative – and the Columbus Division of Power as part of a phased rollout. The solar park is made possible by collaboration among the city’s Division of Power, AEP Energy, BQ Energy and Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO).
“Last November, residents overwhelmingly said ‘yes’ to clean energy and this initiative,” said Mayor Ginther. “Now the program has started, and we’re delivering on the promise to provide local, Ohio-based clean energy to power our homes and small businesses. This project will serve as a beacon in our community, signaling our steadfast commitment to a healthy and prosperous future for all residents.”
The Columbus Solar Park is a development by SWACO and BQ Energy on a 173-acre SWACO-owned property that once served as Franklin County’s sanitary landfill between Jackson Pike and I-71 in Grove City. This development will put the brownfield property back into productive use, providing Columbus residents with cleaner energy and healthier air, and support over 200 jobs in the community through the construction and maintenance of the facility.
“The project will pull from the local labor force to employ electricians, equipment operators, laborers and linemen to get the site operational,” said Michael McNulty, BQ Energy’s project manager. “We will do some earthmoving to upgrade site drainage and stormwater measures to start, then begin assembling the solar array and associated infrastructure. We plan for the construction process to take about seven to nine months.”
“SWACO’s Columbus Solar Park will create green jobs while serving as a highly visible symbol of our community’s commitment to environmental protection,” said SWACO Executive Director Ty Marsh. “I am especially proud we have ensured the energy generated by this project will stay local. I thank BQ Energy, AEP and the City of Columbus for working with us so that the 5,000 homes powered by Columbus Solar Park will be right here in Central Ohio.”
Upon completion in December 2022, the project will connect to the grid through the city’s Division of Power and benefit Clean Energy Columbus participants for the first five years. The project will then split clean energy between Clean Energy Columbus and customers served by the Columbus Division of Power. Most Columbus residents are eligible to participate in Clean Energy Columbus since their electricity is delivered by an investor-owned utility. The program began delivering clean energy to about 80% of eligible residents and small businesses following a spring enrollment process. Due to state regulations, Columbus Division of Power customers are unable to participate in Clean Energy Columbus.
Per the city’s agreement with supplier AEP Energy, 15 full-time employees were hired for AEP Energy’s Customer Care Center in Columbus, and AEP Energy worked with Columbus Urban League to hire 43 seasonal advocates during the opt-out process. Seventeen of those employees were offered permanent, full-time employment with benefits with AEP.
“AEP Energy is proud to be part of the city’s efforts to bring Ohio-based clean energy to Columbus residents and businesses,” said Greg Hall, executive vice president, AEP Energy Supply. “Customers overwhelmingly support clean energy, and programs like the Columbus clean energy aggregation make it possible for customers to bring clean energy to their homes and businesses while supporting new investments and jobs. AEP Energy is committed to helping the city achieve its 100% clean energy goal.”
Workforce development and reinvesting in communities impacted by climate change have been key pillars of Clean Energy Columbus. Alongside AEP Energy, the city co-chairs a Clean Energy Workforce Development Committee with $300,000 of dedicated funding to support the development of a local, diverse pipeline focused on clean energy and energy efficiency. Funding also supports job training for young people ages 18-24 in the city’s opportunity neighborhoods.
"The Ready for 100 Ohio campaign first raised electric aggregation for 100% renewable energy with the city in 2018," said Cathy Cowan Becker, chair of Ready for 100 in Ohio and executive director of Simply Living. "We had three asks for an aggregation program: that it be 100% renewable energy, that the energy come from local construction of wind and solar projects, and that it address equity in our opportunity neighborhoods. The city has achieved all three goals with flying colors. The Columbus Solar Park will generate almost 50 MW of renewable energy each year, create over 200 jobs, reduce our carbon emissions, clean our air and improve our health. It is a win-win-win for our community, our economy and our environment."
More details on the project are available at https://www.swaco.org/413/Solar-Project