A bill headed to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk would give county officials more control over the approval process for solar and wind farms, something local officials say is needed in the current case of a Greene County solar farm awaiting approval from a state board.
Under the current law, the five-member Ohio Power Siting Board, which oversees solar and wind farm projects, goes through a multi-year process to certify new solar and wind farms. The proposed project goes through a compliance review, an application, public notices, an investigation, a staff report, a public hearing and an adjudicatory hearing before the board decides on the project.
Under the new law, county officials would be able to reject specific solar or wind projects in their communities, restrict them from certain areas or ban such projects all together.
A proposed solar farm in Greene County, Kingwood Solar Farm, owned by Texas-based Vesper Energy, is currently under review by the Ohio Power Siting Board. Several township trustees and Greene County commissioners have come out in opposition to Kingwood, saying the farm would affect property values and quality of life for residents.
Steve Combs, a Xenia Twp. trustee, said while locals have some authority and say in what happens with the proposed wind farm, they do not have a vote.
“This thing goes to the state OPSB board for the final decision,” Combs said. “We get to have our input, but we don’t really have a vote in it, and there’s a difference there.”
This law would not give the Greene County officials any authority over the Kingwood Solar Farm decision. It would only apply to future solar or wind farms proposed in the state.
Ohio Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, one of the primary sponsors of the bill, said the issue was about local control. He said he feels the OPSB has been ignoring the part of the law that talks about public benefit necessity and convenience.
“The purpose of this bill was to inject much-needed local input into the process and to do it at an early stage in the process in order to strike a balance between the need for local information about the project and our desire to not enact a de facto prohibition against these developments,” he said.
He said at the end of the process, many wind and solar boards signaled they would be neutral on the bill, while they had fully opposed it earlier.
The Kingwood Solar farm is proposed on Clifton Road and Wilberforce-Clifton Road, running through Xenia Twp., Cedarville Twp. and Miami Twp. All three townships have filed motions to intervene with the state board, stating their opposition to the solar farm.
Vesper Energy has signed leases with 17 landowners in the area.
About 38 solar farms have either been proposed in Ohio or are under construction, and one farm, Hardin I in Hardin County, is currently operational. According to the OPSB, it is 1,115 acres and generates 150 megawatts. Most of the solar farms are proposed in western Ohio, with only a handful proposed east of Columbus.
There are 13 wind farms under review or operational in Ohio, most of them in the northwest part of the state and all of them in the north.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding