The Turning Point Solar Project truly tells a 21st century, new Ohio economy story. It would be the largest solar project East of the Mississippi and is being built on reclaimed coal strip mine land. It’s a fantastic partnership of one of the nation’s largest utilities, working with a solar manufacturer who chose to locate in Ohio because of the project. In return, the solar manufacturer, committed to hire 60 percent of their workforce from returning Ohio veterans.
This project has been underway for over two years. The manufacturing plant in Napoleon is ready to expand and hire more workers. The companies involved were ready to hire the workforce and construct one of the largest solar projects in the world in Southeast Ohio, a region of our state that could certainly use a shot in the arm.
The project has it all, except for political leadership.
Yesterday, in a 3-1 vote, Kasich appointees to the state’s Public Utilities Commission denied the project. The three commissioners who voted against the project have little to no experience in the public utilities sector.
On the other hand, the experienced PUCO staff recommended the project be granted approval, and did so with vigor.
In addition, the only PUCO commissioner with extensive experience in electric regulatory law supported approving the project.
The bottom line: American Electric Power did the right thing—they created a game-changing project for Ohio, which the PUCO staff said was needed for AEP to be in compliance with Ohio laws. The project could create over 600 new Ohio jobs and would have given our state a positive spotlight we so deserve.
So why isn’t Governor John Kasich outraged that his appointees rejected a job creating project?
Kasich’s spokesperson says that they don’t want to get involved in the decisions of an independent commission. That’s odd, because they already have. Kasich admitted making calls when the American Electric Power rate case was going to negatively impact Ohioans. At his request, the PUCO rescinded the case. So why would he not inject himself in a decision that has over 600 jobs on the line, supports Ohio manufacturing, helps a utility meet their needs and makes Ohio more competitive?
There is some speculation that Kasich remained mum on this one due to one of his largest campaign contributors, First Energy, coming out against the project. We can only hope that Kasich doesn’t stay silent forever and shows some of the “finance” and job creating skills he’s so fond of telling Ohioans has in spades.
If this is the end for Turning Point Solar, Ohioans have one man to blame – and that’s the governor who could (have?) done something.