Pictured at the New Market Solar Project groundbreaking Thursday, May 13 are: (l-r) Mike Bick, superintendent of Bright Local School District; Curt Morgan, CEO of Vistra Corp.; Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley; Dan Shirey, business manager, IBEW Local 575; and Jared Wren of Hecate Energy. (Photos by Steve Roush/The Highland County Press.)
Pictured at the New Market Solar Project groundbreaking Thursday, May 13 are: (l-r) Mike Bick, superintendent of Bright Local School District; Curt Morgan, CEO of Vistra Corp.; Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley; Dan Shirey, business manager, IBEW Local 575; and Jared Wren of Hecate Energy. (Photos by Steve Roush/The Highland County Press.)
By Steve Roush
The Highland County Press

Calling it the start of something totally revolutionary, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley was the keynote speaker of a groundbreaking ceremony of an undertaking billed as the largest municipally led solar project in the United States here in Highland County.

Cranley and other officials and industry representatives spoke of economic and environmental benefits the New Market Solar Project will bring to the region. The solar farm will be located on nearly 900 acres in Highland County on several contiguous areas along Edwards Road, Stringtown Road, New Market Road and South Hollowtown Road in Clay and Whiteoak townships.

By year’s end, New Market Solar is expected to be operational and will contain more than 310,000 solar panels, which equate to the size of roughly 750 football fields and is expected to generate more than 200,000 megawatt hours of energy yearly.

“This is truly one of the proudest professional moments of my life,” Cranley said. “We are starting something today that is truly revolutionary. We are proving that clean energy works, that clean energy creates jobs, that clean energy can create wealth for landowners in middle America. We are going to lead by example that others are going to follow. And this isn’t a small project, it’s a very, very big project, the biggest in the country ever led by a city.”

Cranley and other speakers said that the New Market Solar Project will provide emission-free, renewable energy while protecting and preserving clean air, water quality, and soil resources.

“You never know, you get into public life hoping to make the world a better place, and you hope that certain things do, but this is going to be a permanent marker of change and positivity for the world and for Ohio,” Cranley said.

Cranley said the project is a “win-win” for the city of Cincinnati, the environment, the landowners of the solar farm and the Highland County community. He said that the project will bring in at least 160 construction jobs that will boost the local economy.

“This project will give tremendous new taxes for the school district, I know that the Whiteoak folks are going to say a few words and are benefitting from that, we care deeply about them,” he said. “We also acknowledge that we hope, and I’m not part of the details, but we hope that the landowners make money, this is a capitalist system, this is hopefully an opportunity for people to hold onto their land, family land they can pass on to their kids and grandkids and to be part of the solution. I recognize this is change … but it’s also important to remember that nobody forced the landowners into this deal, and it’s a win-win, they’re making money and we’re getting a product at a cheaper price.

“We want farmers and Ohioans to make more money in this state, not less,” Cranley said. “We want there to be more opportunities for capitalism and dynamism going forward, and this is a project that will presumably make money for the landowners and others can benefit, as well.”

Jared Wren, a senior development associate with Hectate Energy, said the New Market Solar project is five years in the making and is now becoming a reality.

“This is a special occasion,” Wren said. “Author Marty Rubin once wrote, ‘The deep roots never doubt spring will come.’ After five years of planning, partnering and working with the community, local farmers and, finally, creating a unique partnership with the city of Cincinnati, we are standing here today, and spring has sprung.”

The New Market Solar Project is separate from the already authorized 300-megawatt Hecate Energy project planned to occupy “up to 1,919 acres” in the Buford area.

Doug Carraher, Highland County farmer and a part landowner of the New Market project, said the solar farm is “bringing economic hope to our part of small-town America and we feel this is a great opportunity for Highland County.”

While the project will be on nearly 900 acres, the Carrahers are not going out of the farming business as Carraher said the family “still has nearly 8,000 acres of farmland.”

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