Bill giving local control over solar, wind projects gets major rewrite

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solar panels hillcrest ohio
(Rachel Wagoner photo)

An Ohio bill that proposed giving locals the power to approve utility-scale solar and wind projects is now taking a different approach to local control.

Instead of setting up a referendum process for residents to approve each large renewable energy project, a sub bill added onto House Bill 118 would let townships set aside certain areas of the community for wind and solar development. The sub bill was introduced and accepted May 12 by House Public Utilities committee.

Sen. Rob McColley, sponsor of the bill’s Senate companion, told the committee many people in the renewable energy industry said a referendum on individual projects would result in a de facto prohibition on large-scale solar and wind project.

“The goal isn’t to place any de facto prohibition on this type of development,” he said. “The goal is to install bona fide local control over the land use decisions that are being made in these jurisdictions.”

New approach

The original language of House Bill 118 and Senate Bill 52 would have created a referendum process by which locals would approve utility-scale solar and wind projects before they went to the Ohio Power Siting Board. 

The sub bill would allow townships to create a resolution designating certain parts of the township as “energy development districts” where large wind and solar farms could be built.

The creation of such districts would be subject to a referendum, McColley said. Under this legislation, the Ohio Power Siting Board could not grant a certificate to a facility unless the it was located in an energy development district of a municipality.

The bills received a lot of attention in Ohio and nationally. More than 100 people each testified in support of the legislation and in opposition to it at two committee hearings in March.

Supporters of the bill want more of a say in whether these sorts of projects come into their communities. Many feel the current process for public input through the Ohio Power Siting Board is inadequate. 

Opponents said the referendum process would run roughshod on their private property rights and stifle economic development. Members of the utility-scale solar industry said the bills would effectively kill the industry’s growth in the state.

The sub bill will now go through the process of receiving more testimony.

Related content:

Supporters of Ohio bills want more control over solar, wind projects

Bill would give local control over wind, solar farm approval

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