Ohio Senate passes bill giving communities power to stop new renewable projects


The Ohio Senate has passed legislation granting county commissions the power to stop new wind and solar development projects in their tracks.

Senate Bill 52 would require renewable energy project developers to share their application with township trustees 30 days before applying for a certificate from the Ohio Power Siting Board. HB 118 currently awaits referral to a House committee.

Township trustees, after reviewing the application, could then move to call for a referendum petition. If that petition receives signatures representing at least 8% of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, then the project must be voted on at the next primary or general election before moving forward.

Critics of the bill have argued that it adds an additional and unnecessary bureaucratic step to the project  development process, one which has already been bogged down by the Ohio Power Siting Board’s lengthy application project. These same constraints do not apply to oil and gas projects.

There is also concern that the passage of the bill would steer renewable developers away from Ohio. This could have significant implications in the state if true, as the Solar Energy Industries Association projects Ohio to install 1,904 MW over the next 5 years, good for 14th in the nation over that period.

Bill advocates said the measure is an expansion of community rights and is only permissive in nature. They said the bill would not hinder townships that want to host renewable energy projects.

The bill passed with a 20-13 vote, as five Republicans joined all eight members of the Democratic caucus in opposition. It will next go to the House of Representatives for review.

Community clashes with the developers of large-scale renewable energy projects have also become a phenomenon in Virginia, most recently with a 150 MW project proposed for development in the state by Strata Solar.

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