Renewable energy company moves ahead with massive solar farm on Bill Gates-owned land

·3 min read
This tree-lined driveway, off of State Route 38, is part of the Madison County farmland owned by Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates that might become part of a solar farm. The actual owner of the farm is a company called Midwest Farms, owner of about 6,300 acres of farmland in Union, Deer Creek, Monroe and Somerford townships.
This tree-lined driveway, off of State Route 38, is part of the Madison County farmland owned by Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates that might become part of a solar farm. The actual owner of the farm is a company called Midwest Farms, owner of about 6,300 acres of farmland in Union, Deer Creek, Monroe and Somerford townships.

A renewable energy company is moving ahead with plans to develop one of the largest solar farms in the U.S. in Madison County that includes land owned by Bill Gates.

The 10,000-acre solar farm would be built north of London near Plumwood and would cost at least $1 billion to build.

The project, called Oak Run, is in its initial stages, and Kansas City-based Savion says it likely will be next summer before it submits an application to the Ohio Power Siting Board, the state agency that approves construction of new sources of electricity. If all goes well and the project is approved, construction likely wouldn't begin until 2024 or 2025, the company said.

The Dispatch reported in June that Savion had an option to buy the 6,300-acre Gates farm in Madison County. Other surrounding property owners have signed on, swelling the size of the project.

“We look forward to developing a project that generates emission-free energy while providing financial stability for landowners and wide-ranging benefits for Madison County,” Sarah Moser, development director for Savion, said in a statement.

The project, expected to have an operating life of 35 years, could generate up to 1,600 megawatts of electricity at any one time, enough to power about 342,000 Ohio households, according to Savion. That's on par with some of the state's biggest power plants.

Property records don't directly link Gates, the cofounder of Microsoft, to the 6,300 acres. County records show Midwest Farms LLC of Monterey, Louisiana, is the actual owner of the farmland in Union, Deer Creek, Monroe and Somerford townships that belongs to Gates. Midwest Farms bought more than 5,000 acres for $27.1 million in 2009, the Dispatch reported at the time. Additional land was acquired in 2018 for more than $2 million.

Other documents and media accounts do make the connection, and Madison County officials have said it's common knowledge that Gates is the owner.

The announcement of Oak Run marks another step in the surge of solar farms in Ohio with more than 40 farms in some stage of development. Amazon alone is behind 16 of the projects.

But Oak Run would be by far the biggest in Ohio should it be built and one of the largest in the country.

Another huge solar project in northwest Indiana called Mammoth Solar will take up 13,000 acres. Ground was broken on the first phase of that project in October.

The Oak Run site is about 4.5 miles south of the Madison Fields solar project that Savion also is developing. Construction of that project is expected to start in August.

Savion says the ultimate size and design of Oak Run will depend on several factors, including how many landowners agree to participate, community feedback, regulatory requirements and efforts to minimize the impact of the project on the community.

Savion says the project would generate between $242 million and $504 million in tax revenue over its lifespan.

mawilliams@dispatch.com

@BizMarkWilliams

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Oak Run solar farm would become one of the largest solar projects