AEP agrees to build 400 MW of solar in Ohio over the next four years

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The U.S. Midwest has not been a leading region for the deployment of solar PV. While solar markets have advanced in the Southwest, the Northeast and even the South, no state in the Midwest has been a top ten solar market in the last three years.

That may change, given a recent settlement between the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign and utility AEP. Under the proposal sent to Ohio regulators, AEP Ohio plans to shut down 1.5 GW of coal-fired power plants and develop 500 MW of wind and 400 MW of solar over the next four years.

For perspective, Pennsylvania has the largest solar capacity among neighboring states, and had cumulatively installed 238 MW by the middle of 2014. Much of this was put online before 2012.

AEP’s plans will include an auction process for at least one large-scale solar project, and under the agreement AEP must attempt to put all 400 MW of solar capacity online by 2021.

Other details are limited, and Sierra Club says that more information will be available with AEP files a request for proposals (RFP) for developers to build the first solar PV project under the agreement.

The agreement also states that preference is given to PV projects situated in Appalachian Ohio, and that commit to hiring Ohio military veterans, however there is nothing to force AEP to comply with either provision.

“It’s not only bringing solar to a state that hasn’t had much clean energy since they closed the clean energy standard, but it’s going to be bringing solar to the coalfields of Ohio,” Danny Wein, Associate Press Secretary for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, told pv magazine.

“This is where coal has been historically produced, and it is developing a clean energy economy on top of coal.”