There are gigawatts of PV projects in the U.S. utility-scale solar pipeline.
But a lot of things can derail a solar project: environmental issues, tortoises, financing issues, zoning codes, or natural gas prices.
In the case of Ohio's 50-megawatt Turning Point Solar project, you might put the reason down as political overreach and regulatory payback.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio found that utility AEP "did not prove that the project is needed," according to Dan Gearino of The Columbus Dispatch reporting that the Turning Point plan is "all but dead."
The 50-megawatt solar project in Ohio, developed by Agile Energy with utility American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), was to deploy more than 225,000 solar panels on 500 acres of reclaimed strip-mined land. Isofoton, a Spanish solar panel firm, was slated to ramp up manufacturing facilities in the Buckeye State, with the help of millions in loans from Ohio to ostensibly create hundreds of permanent manufacturing jobs. (GTM Research's Shyam Mehta has challenged the wisdom of co-locating a solar project with a solar farm. A colleague in the solar industry notes, "I just haven't seen anything to suggest that a 30-megawatt factory is anything other than too small, too old, and too expensive to compete against the new class of 10X to 20X larger factories that currently dominate the global marketplace.")
Michael Morris, the CEO of AEP, was a supporter of the project and AEP had expressed interest in investing once the project was developed. But now AEP has no way to pay for the project, having hoped for an on-bill charge to cover the cost of the $180 million to $250 million project. AEP spokeswoman Terri Flora said that the vote is a severe blow that undoes years of work, according to Gearino's report.
Turning Point is a project championed by then-Democratic Governor Ted Strickland which was just given the boot by a majority Republican PUC. Strickland promoted the solar project in the closing weeks of his failed 2010 re-election campaign, highlighting the hundreds of jobs it would create.
The Public Utilities Commission stated: “The commission...finds that the signatory parties have not demonstrated that the Turning Point provision of the stipulation benefits ratepayers and the public interest," according to The Toledo Blade.
Democrats in Ohio have suggested that utility FirstEnergy (NYSE:FE), a contributor to current Ohio Governor John Kasich's campaign, is an opponent of the project and influenced the decision of the PUC. Todd Snitchler, the Chairman of the Ohio PUC, has come under fire for the anti-green nature of his Twitter feed.
Ohio's renewable energy portfolio standard calls for 12.5 percent renewables by 2025 with a 0.5 percent carve-out for solar power in 2024 and a 0.14 percent carve out in 2014.
Glen Davis, the CEO of project developer Agile Energy, told GTM, "With respect to yesterday’s PUCO ruling, we are obviously disappointed, and feel the Commission has failed to account for the many economic, employment, developmental, environmental and energy security benefits the project will bring to Ohio. Nonetheless, we are determined to bring the Turning Point Solar project to fruition, and have already begun charting an alternate path forward."
Agile Energy has received $37 million in funding from Good Energies Capital.