The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 13, 2010

Groundbreaking set for $32M solar farm

By Francis Scarcella

MILTON — Groundbreaking for the solar farm in the Milton Industrial Park is set for Feb. 15, even though developers say they do not know how much they will get in lease payments from the company that will operate the solar farm and it is unclear whether a state loan for the effort will be approved.

The $32 million project to build the largest solar farm in Pennsylvania will be funded privately through the Milton Area Industrial Development Association and will not involve taxpayer money, even though the association is applying for a loan through the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Financing Authority, said Maria Culp, chairwoman of MAIDA.

“We asked the state for a loan, but if we don’t get it, we will from a bank,” Culp said. “We should know by February.”

The loan would be used for the completion of construction.

The land still will be owned by MAIDA. However, according to Justin Dunkleburger, chief executive officer of Penn Wind LLC, no agreement has been reached with Sunforce Solutions, the San Francisco company that will lease the land.

“We have no agreement as to how much they will be paying for the lease as of yet,” he said.

Dunkleberger said he is confident the lease deal will be resolved without delaying the project.

The solar farm will be placed on the last major available portion of ground that MAIDA owns and when completed will directly power two park businesses with excess power being sent to almost 1,800 Milton homes.

“The three main parts to this money are the leasing of the land, the private investors we have and the loan to finish,” Culp said.

The land being used is the primary breeding ground for an endangered species, the eastern spadefoot toad.

Culp said a small section of the 42 acres of undeveloped land is where the toads live, and they are at more harm by doing nothing other than regular maintenance, than developing it.

“We did research, and we found that the toads actually live about five feet underground, so by doing nothing with the land other than farming, we are actually disturbing the earth movement, and that is worse for the toads than what we are going to do,” she said.

“We will have no excavation and no underground trenching to disturb the toads other then putting up posts.”

Culp said cameras will be set up to keep track of the construction.

“We will have several cameras set up to monitor the area during and after construction,” she said.

State Rep. Merle Phillips, R-108 of RR2 Sunbury, said: “This is a win-win for the area. This will create jobs, and it won’t cost the taxpayers anything.”