Portage County is moving – slowly – toward renewable energy

Photo by Bill Mead

Across Portage County, new solar installations are going in each month, and electric vehicle charging stations are popping up across the northern half of the county. 

Most of the investment, however, seems to be residential and private, according to interviews with local officials, rather than through public initiatives. (There is no countywide clearinghouse for this information.)

One small recent exception is Brimfield Township, which is trying out solar power on its welcome signs. 

“Welcome to Brimfield” signs are at the Brimfield-Suffield border on state Route 43 and at Meloy Road and state Route 43. Two more are planned for County Road 18, one at the township’s Rootstown border and one at the Tallmadge border.

The plan is to test the sign at Meloy Road and 43 to see how well it works with solar power. If it passes the test, the township will install solar tech at the remaining three signs, Trustee Nic Coia said. 

Brimfield-based GDI (Graphic Detail, Inc.) is installing the signs and suggested using solar power. If the signs were to have lights running off the grid, there would be a meter for each one, with a monthly charge. Coia said the trustees were happy to experiment with an option that could be free in the long run.

Overall, the county is not exactly embracing alternative energy.

Permits for solar installations range from none in Hiram to an average of five to 10 per year in Rootstown, and they are all for residential use. The up-front costs and Northeast Ohio’s ubiquitous cloud cover could well be factors, the building officials say.

Portage County’s Building Department, which serves the county’s townships and villages, sees about four requests a month, all for residential purposes. The requests are spaced evenly around the county, with no specific focus in any one area, said Deputy Director Joe Bodnar.

That rate represents a slight decline from 2020, when the building department reported 67 solar installations. However, only one resident installed solar panels on their home in 2012, so the general trend is still on the rise. 

Electric vehicles are also catching on, and EV owners have multiple options for charging up.

  • Aurora has a charging Station at the Walmart Supercenter, 7235 Market Place Drive; at Liberty Ford, 900 N. Aurora Road; and a Tesla Destination Charger at Inn Walden, 1119 Aurora Hudson Drive. 
  • Kent has three charging stations at 201 E. Erie St., in the PARTA Central Gateway parking garage. There are two more at Klaben Ford Lincoln, 1089 W. Main St.
  • Kent State’s EV charging stations can be found at Heer Hall’s R6 lot, the Office of Institutional Advancement’s R9 lot, the Art Annex’s R19 lot and the Kent Student Center Visitor pay lot.
  • Streetsboro has charging stations at Nissan of Streetsboro, 885 Classic Drive; and at Walmart, 905 Singletary Drive.
  • Ravenna has applied for an Ohio EPA grant for a charging station to be placed in the municipal lot on Meridian Street.
  • Garrettsville is awaiting installation of a charging station at Maple and High streets. Look for it when the weather breaks, Mayor Rick Patrick says.
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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.