CLEVELAND, Ohio – Another legislative effort is under way to revive wind farm development in Ohio, which has been stymied since 2014 by restrictive zoning rules added to an unrelated budget bill.
Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, has introduced legislation that would allow wind turbines to be closer than currently allowed to properties not included in a proposed wind farm.
As in a bill proposed earlier this year, property line minimum setback distances to adjoining properties would be based on the height of a turbine and the length of its blades.
What’s new is that Sen. Bill 238 would also reference a portion of Ohio tax code, which Dolan argues already gives county governments a good deal of control over wind development.
The tax code gives Ohio counties the authority to negotiate lower property taxes for developers proposing large projects, including wind farms, and to use those negotiations as leverage for whatever the county or its residents want.
Every wind farm built so far in Ohio relied on such “payments in lieu of taxes,” say analysts, because the negotiated payments provided developers enough of a tax break to make a proposed wind farm fiscally possible.
In other words, local governments already have the ability to control wind projects, making the need for the 2014 draconian, one-size-fits-all state rules questionable.
“Local control has been there, but because it was not referenced, it was accurate for some to say there was no local control,” Dolan said in an interview.
Wind energy development has become an issue in attracting new businesses and manufacturing, said Dolan, especially high-tech companies.
“This is an extremely important issue for Ohio. We’ve got to make sure that Ohio has a broad-based energy portfolio. And investors in wind energy are anxious to get into Ohio. This means billions of dollars for our economy.”
Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, and chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said an initial hearing most likely will occur after the first of the year.
Reaction from Ohio economic development groups and from and an affiliate of Internet giant Amazon was immediate and positive.
“SB 238 would … help foster more investment in developing wind energy resources and position Ohio for the 21st century economy,” said Braden Cox, an economic development director for Amazon, in a prepared release.
Noting that Amazon is committed to operating its web services with 100 percent renewable energy over time, Cox added that Amazon Web Services must have “access to a renewable energy market that is robust, reliable, and cost competitive.”
Zachary Frymier, director of energy and environmental policy for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, called the proposal “a commonsense approach that will adequately protect the interests of property owners, enable wind developers to invest in our state, and bolster manufacturing opportunities up and down the wind energy supply chain.”
And Alex Fischer, president and CEO of Columbus Partnership, said, “We have seen an increasing private sector demand for renewable energy, including wind, in our economic development efforts at the Partnership, and believe Ohio’s business climate would be enhanced if we can offer companies a wide array of affordable, clean energy choices.”
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