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Giving our community a voice on wind and solar projects

Northwest Ohio is truly a wonderful place to live. Our part of the state is home to some of the best small businesses, great school districts, and dedicated communities. Each and every day, I am honored to serve as the 82nd Ohio House District State Representative.

Our region is also home to the most wind development in the state. While some communities may embrace the development of renewable energy projects, other communities do not want these types of projects in their area. Over the past six years, I have been gathering information on this subject and understand that there is no one-size-fits-all policy for wind and solar renewable energy development projects.

Local officials and residents should have the ability to decide whether a wind or solar development project is a good fit for their community. Members of our community deserve to have a transparent decision-making process in which their voices and concerns are heard and can have an impact. That’s exactly what Senate Bill 52 will do. It is sponsored by Senators Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, and Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin.

Senate Bill 52 had companion legislation in the House of Representatives known as House Bill 118, sponsored by Representative Dick Stein, R-Norwalk, and myself. During the legislative process, changes were made to the bills and interested party meetings were held in order to come up with a compromise for how the development process will play out going forward. It is a complex issue and involved many different groups, testimonies and discussions and I am pleased to share that Senate Bill 52 was recently signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine on July 12.

Under this legislation, the project developer must notify county commissioners and township trustees of the project no later than 90 days before filing their application with the Ohio Power Siting Board. After the county commissioners review the project information, they would then have three options: (1) They can deny the project; (2) They can limit the geographic area of the project. Both of these first two options would be subject to a countywide referendum vote; (3) They can take no action and after 90 days, the project will proceed through the normal Ohio Power Siting Board process.

Option 3 would not be subject to a countywide referendum vote.

Senate Bill 52 will permit a board of county commissioners to approve or deny power siting board certification of certain wind and solar facilities that produce greater than 50 megawatts of power. It will allow the county commissioners to designate exclusive zones where wind and or solar projects would be disallowed. Any decision to make an exclusive zone would be subject to a countywide referendum vote. In addition, the bill will also provide for two additional ad hoc members of the Ohio Power Siting Board and establish decommissioning requirements for certain wind and solar facilities.

Senate Bill 52 creates a strong framework in which communities that are impacted by wind and solar projects can have their input considered. In my view, it is common sense to proceed with energy projects when there is widespread resident support and to not proceed when there is unanimous opposition from residents.

I sincerely appreciate the efforts of Northwest Ohioans in providing and submitting their personal testimonies for both of these bills, and I look forward to continuing the fight in making sure the voices of my constituents are heard.

Craig Riedel is the state representative for the 82nd District of the Ohio House of Representatives. He is a Republican. The district consists Defiance, Paulding and Van Wert counties as well as a portion of Auglaize County.