Origis Energy abandoning proposed solar farm project due to opposition from residents

Published 4:00 pm Friday, March 15, 2024

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Residents of the Oakey Ridge Community who voiced their concerns and opposition to a proposed solar farm appear to have been successful in convincing the company to abandon the project.

A second community meeting regarding the proposed solar farm was held Tuesday at Oakey Ridge Baptist Church where county residents once again voiced their concerns. During that meeting, officials with Origis Energy told those in attendance they would no longer pursue the project.

Johan Vanhee, chief commercial and procurement officer for Origis Energy, was among the company’s representatives at the meeting and he confirmed on Friday that the solar project will not be pursued.

“Origis Energy can confirm it will terminate the development of the solar farm on the original preliminary project site near the Oakey Ridge Community,” Vanhee said.

The community’s input and opposition were the determining factor in the decision with officials saying they did not want to cause disruption for those who live there.

“The community’s valued input was the only driver in our decision to terminate the development on the original Oakey Ridge project site,” he said. “I was honored and humbled to be able to listen in person to the numerous community members who sacrificed their evening to meet with me. I was able to understand their concerns and thoughts which made it clear to me I would cause too much impact on the community. I learned that we unintentionally caused a lot of heartburn and sleepless nights with the community. I have expressed our sincerest apologies for such inconvenience.”

Oakey Ridge resident Shannon Wiggins was among those working against the solar farm project.

“It was good to see the community stand together. We prayed over it and did what we could do while respecting the landowners who were wanting to do it. We’ve been vocal about to get the information out and to get people to understand that just because people are saying it is good, doesn’t mean you have to believe it. I’m extremely proud of each and every member of our community who stood up. Everybody had a role and did what they could,” Wiggins said.

Currently, Origis Energy says they have no plans to develop future solar projects within Covington County. Origis maintains a solar farm in the Wing community.

Covington County Commission Chairman Greg White said he appreciated Origis representatives’ willingness to listen to local residents’ concerns.

“I appreciate that Origis made itself available to the community and listened to their input in at least two community meetings. I know that this is an outcome that the Oakey Ridge community is pleased with,” White said. “Origis has conducted themselves in a professional manner in all of their dealings with our county. They will continue to be taxpayers to our county schools on the Wing project. They’ve already paid about $800,000 of sales and ad valorem tax and they will pay an additional $2 million over the next 20 years that will go directly into education in Covington County.”

Tammy Sightler, another Covington County resident who attended the meetings in opposition to the solar farm, said she is happy for her friends and family who live in the Oakey Ridge community.

“If solar energy is what the country needs, then put it in the open acres of land available, not in the areas where people live. I respect that (Origis representatives) listened to our concerns. This is a Covington County situation; not just Wing and Oakey Ridge. If we want Covington County to remain the way it is we have to continue working to protect it,” Sightler said.