Amendment could bolster county position on proposed large solar array farm

The land use amendment, adopted by commissioners, could influence decision of siting board.

A land use amendment could bolster the commissioners’ position with the Ohio Power Siting Board (OSPB) as they consider approving a controversial utility-scale solar facility in Greene County.

The amendment, which sets forth limitations and guidelines for future solar and wind projects, is intended to guide other local governments, including townships, in developing regulations for renewable energy development.

“It’s not targeted to any specific project,” said Commissioner Dick Gould. “It’s guidelines to be a good neighbor for any future projects.”

The document will not directly affect Kingwood Solar, a proposed 175-megawatt solar farm between Cedarville and Yellow Springs, as the OPSB is the final authority on whether or not renewable energy projects go forward in the state, commissioners said.

Senate Bill 52, passed by the Ohio legislature earlier this year, gives local government more say in the approval process. However, Kingwood Solar completed its application with the OPSB before the passage of the bill, and will not be grandfathered in under the new rules.

The process of addressing renewable energy in county regulation did not start with the bill’s passage.

“We had been discussing this beforehand,” said Gould. “Senate Bill 52 added input, because that told us where the legislature was seeking to go.”

The OPSB has said that it would take input from the commissioners into consideration before approving or denying the project, a decision that is expected at the earliest in 2022.

“When we provide that document, the OPSB may look at that and say, ‘This is where they’re going and we’re going to pass something that doesn’t meet that criteria.’ That may sway their approach,” Commissioner Tom Koogler said.

The amendment prohibits utility-scale development from occurring in any existing or planned urban development. The document also bars development within a mile of the Little Miami Scenic River or within wetlands. It also requires utility-scale solar projects to be reviewed by county and township governments, limits those projects to two percent of land area for each township.

Kingwood’s proposed 1500 acres, located in Miami, Cedarville, and Xenia Townships, is almost exactly two percent of the area of the three townships combined.

During public comments, one opponent of the amendment said that renewable energy projects are not a decision that should be made by local government, and solar can only be done meaningfully at scale. However, a member of the group Citizens for Greene Acres, which opposes Kingwood Solar, said that the amendment was well-received.

The commissioners filed to intervene with Kingwood’s application process in July.

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