AP NEWS

Cuyahoga County to weigh in on lawsuit that threatens Brooklyn landfill solar farm

August 8, 2018

Cuyahoga County to weigh in on lawsuit that threatens Brooklyn landfill solar farm

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A lawsuit filed by FirstEnergy’s Cleveland Electric llluminating Co. could derail a $10 million solar farm project at the closed Brooklyn landfill that is largely funded by Cuyahoga County.

The county’s Board of Control approved $142,000 to hire Bricker & Eckler LLP to represent the county in the lawsuit. That hire is subject to approval by county Prosecutor Michael O’Malley.

County Sustainability Director Mike Foley told board members on Monday that the county needed to hire lawyers to defend the county’s interests because $4 million in county money has already been used to construct the solar farm, and the lawsuit could “delay” the project or “potentially stop it.”

Foley also said that the county likely will win in court, and believes there are no problems with the legalities of the project.

“This is a cool, innovative project we’re doing and we’re going to fight them to make sure this thing happens,” Foley told cleveland.com. “It’s a first-of-its-kind [project] in the state, and we’d like to see this replicated.”

What’s the project?

Columbus-based IGS Solar used about 17 acres of the closed 75-acre Brooklyn landfill to construct a four-megawatt solar farm. The last solar panels were put into place last week, Foley said.

Cleveland Public Power, which is owned by the city of Cleveland, built a transmission line that will carry the power from the array to a nearby electric substation.  

CPP will buy all the power that the solar farm produces. Cuyahoga County has agreed to buy electricity from CPP for its 16 commercial buildings, and about 20 to 25 percent of that electricity will be the clean solar power. 

The line also will enable Brooklyn to buy electricity for its city-owned buildings from CPP and give residents of Brooklyn who live in the corridor of the extended power line the chance to buy their electricity from CPP instead of FirstEnergy.

The cost of the project is about $10 million — about $7.8 million of which is funded by the county.

The county will pay Cleveland Public Power about $68 million for electricity over a 10-year-contract. If that contract is extended as expected to 25 years, the total cost will be about $166 million. The amount saves the county about $3 million in energy costs over that time, Foley said.

What’s the lawsuit?

Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. sued Cleveland and CPP in May, asking a Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judge to halt construction of power lines. CEI contended that the construction was done in an unsafe manner and could have led to power outages, and dangerous conditions for workers.

CEI and CPP reached an agreement about work conditions in late May, but CEI amended its lawsuit in July. Now it contends that CPP is in violation of the law by trying to distribute electricity outside of the city’s borders.

Foley on Monday said the county believes CPP is not in violation of the law.

How does this affect the county?

Because the county is heavily invested in the project, Foley said it wants to hire legal representation to preserve its rights to intervene in the lawsuit.

In a July 19 court hearing, the county, Brooklyn, and the solar farm’s developer, Enerlogics, asked the judge to allow them to weigh in on the lawsuit. The judge granted that request and asked all three to submit briefs by Aug. 10. That prompted Foley to ask the Board of Control to hire Bricker & Eckler.

The trial is set for Dec. 10.

AP RADIO
Update hourly