WILMINGTON — The county’s zoning code may be amended in the areas of solar energy generation and battery energy storage at home.
There also are proposals outlining steps and requirements for utility-scale solar facilities that seek to locate in Clinton County.
So at the household level — once revisions are formalized after an approval process that’s yet to start — a property owner looking to install a solar panel system can consult “Appendix A: Renewable Energy System Installation Guidance” of the Clinton County Zoning Resolution.
According to the proposal, if you want to install roof-mounted or building-integrated solar panels onto your house, you won’t need a special permit. You will need a regular building permit to do the project. Such installations are considered Tier 1 projects in a new three-tier system.
“Those [Tier 1 projects] are subject simply to a building permit because they are on a building. They don’t require anything special, the building already exists, so no zoning permit is required for anyone,” said Clinton County Building & Zoning Assistant Manager Joshua Harmon, CBO.
If, instead, you want to build a ground-mounted solar panel system in your yard (which does not exceed a certain size or generation capacity), then you would have to get a zoning permit just like with a barn or out-building you might build. That’s classified a Tier 2 project.
And, if it’s going to be a larger solar panel field then there will be “more hoops to go through to make sure it is safe and thought through,” said Harmon. These larger-scale projects will fall in the Tier 3 category.
These Tier 3 renewable energy systems would be regarded as “conditional uses” that would require the approval of the Clinton County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). That board is comprised of five county residents appointed to their seats by the county commissioners.
Tier 3 systems can include solar photovoltaic equipment, wind mills, or hydro-generating turbines.
When a conditional-use permit is required, the project will be reviewed based on the Appendix. The Appendix encompasses areas such as setbacks, vehicular paths, glare protection, operations and maintenance, emergency operations, fencing requirements, stormwater control, and a decommissioning plan and bond.
Battery energy storage also will be addressed in the zoning code Appendix. These devices and systems are capable of charging, discharging, or storing energy electrochemically. They’re important to think about, Harmon said.
So far in Clinton County there have been 52 installations of battery energy storage units, he said. Thus far, the Clinton County Building & Zoning Department has not had anyone request more than one at a home.
“We just had a Tesla application come in,” said Harmon. It would be inside a building, so again it’s a building permit issue, not a zoning issue.
The proposed code changes regarding renewable energy systems would not apply to unzoned townships in Clinton County. Two of Clinton County’s 13 townships do not have zoning. They are Washington Township which includes the town of Cuba, and Clark Township which surrounds the village of Martinsville.
Before the proposed Appendix gets adopted, it will be sent to stakeholders for review.
The proposed Appendix will go through both the Clinton County Regional Planning Commission and the Clinton County Rural Zoning Commission. The two bodies will either recommend approval or denial, with both of their meetings open to the public and with a public notice in the News Journal announcing the respective dates, times and locations.
Final approval rests with the Clinton County commissioners, who must approve any proposed code change.
Harmon’s goal is to have the proposed Appendix in front of the Board of Clinton County Commissioners by March.
Last July, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law a measure that enables Ohio county commissioners to block proposed wind turbines, solar farms or other renewable projects, or site them in specific areas of a county, according to an Associated Press report at the time.
Under the new state law, county commissioners and township trustees will have to be notified of proposed future projects at least 90 days before developers file with the Ohio Power Siting Board in Columbus.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.