New law authorizes local control over solar, wind projects


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. Mike DeWine has signed into law a bill allowing Ohio county commissioners to determine the fate of renewable energy projects.

When the measure signed Monday takes effect in 90 days, county commissions will be able to block proposed wind turbines, solar farms or other renewable projects, or site them in specific areas of a county. The proposal will also add a commissioner and trustee to the Ohio Power Siting Board while it reviews local projects.

As the News Journal has previously reported, a Chicago company is developing a proposed 300-megawatt solar power generation facility in southern Clinton County, targeted to start operating in 2023. The project is named the Yellow Wood Solar Energy Center.

In a June 29 public forum at the Clinton County Courthouse, residents who live near the proposed site voiced a range of concerns, including effects on water in their wells, real estate sale values, dust and noise during construction, prison-like fences surrounding the solar array, leakage from solar panels, and a need to protect the rural character of Clinton County.

During the forum, Nicole Oberrecht from the Lynchburg area said, “… Instead our fate is in the hands of the Ohio Power Siting Board. Citizens of the community with skin in the game should have the authority to approve or disapprove these projects at a local level, not a panel of individuals in Columbus.”

It’s believed the new Ohio law will not apply to the Yellow Wood Solar Energy Center because the proposed project has already met pre-existing application requirements. However, there was not immediate confirmation of this prior to press time Tuesday.

Under the new law, county commissioners and township trustees will have to be notified of proposed future projects at least 90 days before developers file to the board.

Supporters of the measure argue that various steps contained in the new law will put local control and input at the forefront of solar farm or wind turbines projects.

But opponents, including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and environmental groups, say it discriminates against renewable forms of energy since such measures aren’t applied to coal and natural gas projects.

EDITOR’S NOTE: WNJ staff writer Gary Huffenberger contributed to this report.