GRAFTON — The solar park on East Capel Road could be up and running by April, following the village’s conditional final site plan approval Tuesday.
Eitri Foundry’s plan was approved, pending environmental and wetlands studies and decommission agreements. In December the village entered into a 30-year lease with the company for a flat $164,000. Village Administrator Joe Price said the lower rate of the lease was to account for the renewable energy Grafton Power and Light would be receiving from the roughly 36-acre farm.
The solar park is part of 790 acres the village purchased from the Lorain Correctional Institute in February, after trying for more than two years to do so, according to previous reporting.
The farm will include roughly 17,000 sun-tracking solar panels, increasing efficiency, according to Eitri Foundry CEO Lian Niu. It’s planning on a 4-megawatt alternating current, or AC, project, he said.
The company plans to break ground in late February, weather permitting. Price said the project was in part for economic development, hoping to attract more companies into the village, while also looking to boost housing development and eventually lower residents’ electric bills.
Niu said Grafton is forward-thinking in terms of its economic development, highlighted by the solar park.
“The most interesting thing about it is the fact that Grafton doesn’t really have to pay for anything up front, so the way that we’re financing it is through a Power Purchase Agreement, or a PPA,” he said. “And through a Power Purchase Agreement, we’re able to basically take all of the upfront costs and pass it on to somebody else. Grafton would just pay for the electricity generated by the system and that electricity reflects a savings that Grafton would be able to realize.”
Based in Florida, this is the company’s second project in Ohio — an area Niu said is often underserved.
“Our goal is to be able to build as much as possible. I think a lot of people kind of look at things kind of backwards, people get into renewable energy because they thing it’s going to make them (a millionaire),” he said. “We looked at it and said ‘OK, Ohio is an area that could really benefit from renewables, and it’s also kind of underserved,’ so that’s how we really entered this market.”
Rather than build a power station of steel and gravel, Niu said they plan to do a pollinator-type system, which they did in their first project in Monroeville.
“Rather than coming in and making it look like a traditional power plant where everything’s concrete and steel and stuff like that, we’re actually hoping to plant local wildflowers that should be able to attract and help to revitalize some of the lost bee population.”
The company is working with the Ohio State University Extension in Wooster and plans to contact local 4-H groups and the Lorain County Joint Vocational School to offer education opportunities in the county.
Council also is in the works of leasing another 107 acres to Entri Foundry, though the terms and pricing are not set in stone.
New fire chief
The village appointed Glen Thompson as its new fire chief, replacing Randy Kimbro, whose retirement is effective Friday.
Thompson was acting fire chief following Kimbro’s announcement earlier this month. He previously was assistant fire chief, bringing with him numerous years of fire and EMT experience.
The village fire chief is a part-time position. The volunteer department responds to roughly 200 emergency calls per year from two fire stations, according to the village’s website.
Mayor David DiVencenzo and Thompson also swore in three new lieutenants, slated for the position by Kimbro. With Council chambers packed with friends, family and members of the Village Fire Department, Steve Cricks, Joe DiVencenzo and Andrew Hylbert were promoted to lieutenant.