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MEDINA – New local authority to restrict solar and wind energy projects could soon be acted on by Medina County commissioners.
Ohio Senate Bill 52, which went into effect Monday, allows county commissioners to establish restricted areas where large-scale renewable projects cannot take place. The authority only applies to unincorporated township land and not cities or villages. Renewable energy work already underway has been grandfathered in and won’t be limited in accordance with SB 52, according to legislators.
Medina County Commissioner Steve Hambley said Tuesday he’d like to see all local unincorporated township areas be put into restricted status but not necessarily with a goal of stopping future renewable work. He said going that route will give the county increased negotiating power for those projects.
“We’ll go into this in more detail, but my proposal is for us to go through the process to designate that all the townships in the county cannot build utility scale solar and wind projects,” he said. “These are big projects of 50 (megawatts) or more and wouldn’t be applicable to what places like Wadsworth have done.”
“The concept is, you can say no but change your mind at a future date,” Hambley added. “That allows you to go through the entire process and evaluate what a proposal is and set conditions. If you take no action, a company can come in and it’s hard to negotiate with them to set those conditions.”
SB 52 passed in the Ohio Senate by 21-12 earlier this year before a closer 52-44 Statehouse vote. While proponents of the bill have expressed a desire to give local property owners increased say in larger solar and wind projects, opposition points to no such restrictions existing for fossil fuel installations.
All Ohio General Assembly Democrats voted against SB 52, but several Republicans also gave a thumbs down including District 70’s Darrell Kick, R-Loudonville.
County commissioners will have a 90-day window to review project proposals, over which a public meeting will be held describing work. If no local decision is made during this time, solar and wind applicants can proceed on the 91st day to the Ohio Power Siting Board.
The city of Wadsworth’s 39-acre, 6.25-megawatt capacity solar field at Seville Road produces enough power for 4,375 U.S. homes. Capacity on its 10-acre Rittman Road field reaches 2.62 megawatts, enough for 1,837 homes, according to output data.
“This is about the landowners and the property rights,” Hambley said. “But doing it this way also gives us time to draw up our own criteria and make that criteria in our best interests. Medina County is positioned very well for solar projects, not so much wind. The summer and good weather months around here are a real money maker and there’s been a real decrease in costs for putting together these kinds of sites.”
Hambley said he and other administrators will meet with township trustees to discuss the matter in the near future.
“We want to get them involved in this,” he said. “We’ll also talk with the planning commission. There’s really no case law for this yet because it’s so brand new. So, it might be good to say no initially and then set requirements for drainage, road use agreements, landscaping and other specifics. Then we can say, ‘OK, we’ll support it and designate the area.’ ”
Commissioner Bill Hutson said he’d like to see townships opposed to renewable projects in their jurisdictions pass their own legislation stating so.
“If they’re not for it, it’d be good for us to have that documentation so when the commissioners are faced with the project 10 years down the road, that’s there to be referenced,” he said. “It shows they decided that on their own.”
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