Warren County solar array powers park, draws pollinators

Solar project powers Warren County park, but ‘the bee and the butterfly factor puts it over the top’

The solar array and pollinator habitat at Warren County Armco Park Solar is the result of almost eight years of work by a solar-energy contractor and park and nature officials.

Since March, during the daytime, the 745-panel, 256 kilowatt array has been providing 90 to 95 percent of the electric power for the park’s 18-hole golf course, softball complex, tennis and basketball courts, restrooms, concession stand and other facilities, officials said.

The park district pays contractor Jim Yockey through a contract designed to enable him to pay off his financing of the project over 20 years.

Officials said the undisclosed electric expenses are about the same as what they were through Duke Energy.

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“The bee and the butterfly factor, that puts it over the top,” said Yockey, owner of Rocknoll Energy Systems, standing Tuesday near the solar array and pollinator habitat area.

On Saturday, Lebanon Mayor Amy Brewer was expected to preside over a ribbon-cutting for the project expected to reduce the park’s “carbon footprint,” while fighting declines in species needed to pollinate “about one third of the world-wide food supply.”

Rocknoll Energy Systems began pursuing the project after a county park official expressed interest at a meeting, Yockey said.

“We decided to pursue the project as a power purchase agreement,” he said.

Through a company set up for the project, Yockey is financing the array development through First Farmers Bank & Trust in Indiana. The company will pay down the undisclosed debt, using payments from the park district for the electric service, Yockey said.

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The contract sets the undisclosed rates for 20 years.

After reviewing the costs and benefits, the county park district can buy out the system at any time or at the end of the 20-year contract, according to park president Jeff Blazey.

“We’ll start saving money later on,” Blazey said.

The 1.5-acre site, between the 12th tee on the park’s golf course and parking lot for the lake, will also be circled with an interpretive trail and planted with milkweed and other plants, known to provide “pollen, nectar and host plants which are vital to the survival” of pollinators such as Monarch butterflies, according to the state habitat initiative.

“Here in Ohio, the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative was started to inform citizens, landowners, farmers, and government agencies of the importance of pollinators and the habitat they need to survive. Members of the initiative are the core professionals that provide education, outreach, and technical assistance to all that have an interest in pollinators and protecting our food supply,” according to the initiative web site.

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