Citizens from Highland and Clinton counties opposed to local solar fields held a peaceful protest outside the Highland County Administration Building and the Highland County Courthouse on Wednesday morning ahead of the weekly meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners. (HCP photos by Rory Ryan.)
Citizens from Highland and Clinton counties opposed to local solar fields held a peaceful protest outside the Highland County Administration Building and the Highland County Courthouse on Wednesday morning ahead of the weekly meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners. (HCP photos by Rory Ryan.)
Citizens from Highland and Clinton counties opposed to local solar fields held a peaceful protest outside the Highland County Administration Building and the Highland County Courthouse on Wednesday morning ahead of the weekly meeting of the Highland County Board of Commissioners.

Protesters from the group Clinton County/Highland County Citizens Concerned About Solar Farms said they were concerned over what they perceive as a lack of representation from elected officials.

As previously reported, public hearings are scheduled in Ohio for four proposed utility-scale solar farms that would cover more than 8,000 acres of land.

Dodson Creek Solar (Highland County), Yellow Wood Solar (Clinton County), Tymochtee Solar (Wyandot County) and Birch Solar (Allen and Auglaize counties) would generate a combined 837 megawatts of power, if they are all approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board.

• The Dodson Creek Solar LLC is a proposed 117-megawatt solar-powered electric generation facility in Hamer and Dodson townships in Highland County. The hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Nov. 10, Wharton Building, Highland County Fairgrounds, 604 John Street, Hillsboro.

The Dodson Creek Solar project includes 1,429 acres with electrical collection lines, inverters, a substation and switchyard, a generation interconnect line, weather stations, access roads and perimeter fencing. Additional information regarding the proposed solar facility is available online at www.OPSB.ohio.gov in case number 20-1814-EL-BGN. See https://opsb.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/opsb/cases/20-1814-el-bgn?utm_medium=email+&utm_source=govdelivery.

• Yellow Wood Solar Energy, LLC is proposing to construct a 300-megawatt solar farm in Clark and Jefferson townships in Clinton County. The hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 20, at the Clinton County Fairgrounds Expo Hall, 958 West Main Street, Wilmington.

The project would sit on about 4,395 acres of leased land and include racking systems, high voltage transformers, a substation, meteorological towers, access roads and a perimeter fence.

Additional information regarding the proposed solar facility is available online at www.OPSB.ohio.gov in case number 20-1680-EL-BGN. See https://opsb.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/opsb/cases/20-1680-el-bgn?utm_medium=email+&utm_source=govdelivery.

 


Last month, Highland County commissioners Jeff Duncan, Terry Britton and David Daniels issued a response to residents sharing concerns on the various proposed solar farms in the area.

On July 21, the commissioners’ office released the following letter to The Highland County Press.

Thank you for your concern about solar farms located in and around Highland County. Many people have asked our opinion on these, and we offer this as a statement.

It is important we reiterate that we have no authority over how utilities are sited in the State of Ohio. That responsibility lies with the Ohio Power Siting Board and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, as it should. The idea that 2,332 units of local government should have authority over statewide energy policy is not workable under any circumstance.

However, with the passage of Senate Bill 52, which becomes law in 90 days, the county will have additional input with the Power Siting process. It is our intention over the next three months to hold meetings with stakeholders to discuss what our process will be with any new request. It is important to understand that projects before the senate bill will be grandfathered in, and our part in those approvals will be limited.

It is also important to point out that our responsibility on operations over 50 megawatts is limited to two areas. First, whether to accept a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT). This is a more simplified taxing system that guarantees a stable revenue stream over the lifetime of the project. Understand that this is not a tax break; it changes the way taxes are paid. It has been our position we ask for the maximum amount allowable by law to provide the greatest benefit to the citizens of Highland County. The Road Use Maintenance Agreement (RUMA) is put in place to repair any damage to roadways that are caused by increased traffic because of the construction process.

We certainly understand that there is a great deal of emotion that surrounds these projects. The agreements that are made between landowners and the companies building the facilities are private matters between them and are allowable by law. In many cases, the lease or purchase of those properties can make some of our landowners financially solvent and allow them to keep the land in their family and continue to farm the remaining acres. It is not our intent to interfere with the property rights that exist for those landowners and developers.

Do we believe that changes can and should be made to the power siting process? The answer to that is yes. The Ohio Legislature and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio should work to address some of the concerns that are being expressed. Issues regarding setbacks, concentration of facilities in each area, residents that are surrounded, sight and sound barriers, more local input and notification before projects start are areas that we believe should be discussed as an overall conversation of statewide energy policy. If you seek changes to these laws and rules, the Ohio Legislature has that authority.

The debates over renewable energy sources have been ongoing in the federal and state legislatures for decades. Many of the companies that Ohioans use every day are demanding renewable energy. The commercial-scale generating operations will locate where there is capacity in the power lines. While controversial, this can be an economic benefit to local school districts and other units of local governments that will allow them to make investments to benefit their students and local citizens.


Meanwhile, citizens opposed to the proposed solar projects have voiced concerns over potential conflicts of interests among certain elected officials and the longterm impact on properties adjacent to the solar fields.

In July, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation giving county commissioners new powers to kill wind or solar projects early in their development.

Senate Bill 52 also allows them to block wind and solar developments in all or part of unincorporated areas in the county. However, citizens would have the right to canvass signatures and put the restricted development area resolution up for a popular vote.

SB 52 also gives locals two votes on projects within their jurisdiction atop the seven preexisting votes among Power Siting Board members.

The bill will not apply to solar projects that have already met application requirements.

“It only makes sense that everyone affected by the industrial wind and solar projects should have a voice by vote,” said Brett Meyers, of Seneca County, in written testimony to state lawmakers. “A local vote is the only true fair way since large scale wind and solar projects transform our beautiful rural communities in such sweeping fashion.”