Ohio lawmakers want to decrease setbacks for wind farms

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Democratic lawmakers want to decrease the minimum setback for utility-scale wind farms in Ohio to boost renewable energy development in the state.

House Bill 302 would revert the setbacks for wind farms of 5 megawatts or more to pre-2014 levels. Currently, the minimum setback rule is 1,125 feet from the tip of the turbine’s nearest horizontal blade to the nearest adjacent property line.

The legislation would change that back to be measured from the nearest home, not property line. 

The change in 2014, inserted into the state’s budget bill, hindered new wind development in Ohio. It was inserted at the last minute, with no public input, said Rep. Kent Smith, D-Euclid, and nearly tripled the minimum setback requirements, making it one of the most stringent statewide setback laws for wind power development in the country.

Smith introduced the legislation May 19 to the House Public Utilities committee with co-sponsor Rep. Michael Skindell, D-Lakewood. Smith wore a face mask reading “Renewable energy? I’m a big fan” during his testimony.

“This bill seeks to ease the regulatory burden on new wind farms in Ohio and provide a more business friendly environment for clean energy,” Smith said.

According to American Wind Energy Association estimates from 2017, cited by Skindell, Ohio is missing out on an estimated $4.2 billion in economic benefits because of its restrictive setback requirements. That includes 13,000 jobs, $660 million in tax payments to local governments and schools and $440 million in lease payments to landowners over 30 years.

“Plans to generate 3,300 megawatts of new wind projects that would supply electricity to more than 900,000 homes have been on hold or canceled now,” Skindell said.

Past action

This is not the first action seeking to relax the wind turbine setbacks. Similar legislation was introduced in 2017 and 2018. A lawsuit was filed over the restrictive setbacks, also in 2018. The Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition and four Paulding County property owners sued the state alleging the General Assembly violated the state constitution by passing it.

There’s another bill being considered in the Ohio House right now, House Bill 118, that would require setbacks stay at current levels or be set at whatever the wind turbine manufacturer’s safety specifications are, whichever is greater.

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