It has been more than a year and half since Denison’s permit to build a solar array in the Biological Reserve was approved, but once again, it is being appealed. Since the Granville Board of Zoning and Building Appeals’ ruling in Jan. 2015, a group of village residents has blocked the development of the project repeatedly through court proceedings. Most recently, on Aug. 12, the appellants decided to appeal the Licking County Common Pleas ruling that permitted the array to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Effectively, the project is once again on hold.
The array is integral to a proposed power purchasing agreement wherein the school would buy all of the power from the panels from American Electric Power Energy (AEPE) to use on campus. The residents who submitted the appeals are arguing that the energy produced by the array would be of commercial use – and therefore against the area’s property law – because AEPE is financing construction, not Denison.
Jeremy King ‘97, Denison’s campus sustainability coordinator, disagreed with this argument.
“From Denison’s perspective and that of the Village of Granville; this arrangement is not a commercial use because neither Denison nor AEPE are selling the power to a third party.”
“In essence, Denison is leasing the array,” King said. “So, Council’s ruling upholds their earlier decision that the Denison array is acceptable in the proposed location.”
The proposal calls for panels to be constructed in the southwestern corner of the Biological Reserve as well as in the field behind the Denison recycling barn.
According to King, the school looked at various other sites, but the two areas’ sizes, slope and soil conditions made them the only locations for the college to construct an array that could produce a large amount of energy.
The array would produce approximately two megawatts of energy, which would offset 15 percent of Denison’s power needs.
Whether or not the appeal goes Denison’s way, the school will consider deploying panels on other parcels of land or rooftops, though these options would produce a fraction of the energy that the proposed array promises to deliver.
Since the school started their green revolving loan fund in 2011, it has made great strides in increasing the campus’ energy efficiency. Over the five year period, Denison has invested $2 million, and has reduced energy use by over 30 percent and its carbon footprint by nearly 40 percent.
King was proud of the school’s commitment to the green energy conversion.
“We’ve received hundreds of thousands of dollars in AEP rebates for our efforts,” King said. “Denison is a national leader among colleges when it comes to energy-efficiency… We also are in the process of evaluating our central heating plant and considering greener options like geothermal, CHP (the Combined Heat and Power partnership) and other alternatives.”
The solar panels in the Biological Reserve would be another important piece to the school’s efforts to convert to sustainable energy sources.