A hallmark of climate change in the Midwest? Severe storms, according to the nation’s top scientists and meteorologists. The Enquirer/Carrie Blackmore Smith
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley says he’s committed to the largest municipally sponsored solar panel project in Ohio at city-owned properties including Lunken Airport and he wants to see it done within two years.
“I believe climate change is real, do you?” Cranley asked a crowd of about 200 people at the Cincinnati Zoo on Thursday evening.
The group, attending a working session to revamp the Green Cincinnati Plan, answered back with an enthusiastic “Yes!”
Cranley, who is facing re-election this fall, says he’s going to do more than pay lip service to the environment.
He wants to install enough solar panels to generate 20 percent of the energy needed to power city operations and get a fifth of the way to meeting a goal set years ago for city operations to run entirely on renewable energy by 2035. Today, it’s somewhere around 1 percent, according to Cincinnati’s office of environment and sustainability.
Cincinnati’s office of environment and sustainability estimates the project cost to be $40 million to $45 million before federal incentives.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley speaks to roughly 200 citizens who attended a public planning session for a revamp of the Green Cincinnati Plan. (Photo: The Enquirer/Carrie Blackmore Smith)
The solar array project would be a cornerstone of the larger Green Cincinnati Plan, which was first written in 2008 and will be rewritten over the next six months to define goals for the next five years.
Last year, Cincinnati racked up an estimated $50 million in extra costs related to severe weather fueled by a changing climate, according to city estimates.
Despite the possibility that Cranley could be out of the mayor’s office come November, he wants to move aggressively toward the solar array plan.
Here are some of the details:
- The solar array would produce 25 megawatts of power, enough energy to power 80 percent of Greater Cincinnati Water Works’ largest plant or all of the city’s non-utility facilities each year. If you’re familiar with the solar panel parking lot project at the Cincinnati Zoo, this would be roughly 20 times bigger;
- Solar panels would cover 125-150 acres of city-owned land;
- Locations would include 60 acres at Lunken Airport, 60 acres at Center Hill Landfill at the corner of Estes Avenue and Center Hill Road in Winton Hills and atop other city-owned facilities;
- Cranley says the city can save money. On average the city pays 9.5 cents for every kilowatt hour of electricity. Onsite generated solar is expected to cost 5 to 7 cents per kilowatt hour;
- Cincinnati’s office of environment and sustainability estimates the project cost to be $40 million to $45 million before federal incentives.
Governments aren’t eligible for federal incentives, including a 30 percent tax credit, on solar energy, so Cincinnati would need to find a private partner that would own the array and sell the power to the city until the incentives expire. At that time, the city would decide what makes the most sense economically, buy the solar panels or continue to lease the land and buy it from the private partner.
The city is racing against the clock, Cranley said. That federal tax credits expire in 2019, so the mayor wants to “get as much solar power in play by then as possible.”
Cranley still needs City Council’s approval and permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to install solar panels at Lunken airfield.
“They did it in Denver, we can do it here,” Cranley said, referring to the international airport in the Colorado city that has over 40,000 panels installed over more than 50 acres.
Cranley’s plan would be more than double the size of Denver airport’s array.
A photo illustration, created by the city of Cincinnati, of solar panels at Lunken Airport. (Photo: Provided by the city of Cincinnati)
On June 1, President Donald Trump announced the United States would pull out of the Paris Agreement, an agreement by countries across the world to monitor greenhouse gas and emissions and voice its belief that climate change is real.
“Cincinnati can be a national leader,” Cranley said. “If the federal government chooses to abdicate its responsibility, we will step up.”
Read or Share this story: http://cin.ci/2k9H2dt