Utility regulators in Ohio have nixed plans for American Electric Power Co. to use power from a southeast Ohio solar farm to meet its renewable energy requirements, putting the project's future in jeopardy.
AEP-Ohio said it was disappointed with the 3-1 vote by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio regarding the Turning Point project and was weighing its next move. The company has 30 days to ask for a rehearing.
Commissioners went against the recommendation of staff to fund the project, touted in 2010 as the largest solar energy project east of the Mississippi River.
"Obviously we're disappointed with the decision," said Terri Flora, AEP-Ohio general manager. "We believed the agreement was incorporating the jobs with an environmentally-friendly project that would help meet those renewable requirements."
Under recent changes to Ohio law, utilities are required to generate a portion of their electricity through alternative energy sources, including solar.
Regulators said the utility hadn't demonstrated that investing in the Turning Point project would benefit ratepayers, nor that it was necessary to meet the company's renewable energy requirements. The solar farm planned near the wildlife conservancy called The Wilds was projected to create hundreds of jobs and produce enough electricity to power 25,000 homes.
AEP had agreed to purchase power from the facility for 20 years to help fulfill state renewable energy rules. The PUCO ruling blocked that arrangement.
Ohio Democrats criticized the commission's decision. They said commission appointees of Republican Gov. John Kasich were heeding the objections of FirstEnergy Corp., an AEP competitor whose executives have donated to the GOP.
Turning Point was first announced by former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat.