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Beavercreek considering including solar farms in new zoning code

FILE — A solar energy farm that produces electricity for Florida Power & Light, in Babcock Ranch, Fla., May 7, 2019. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden won over environmentalists and liberals with proposals and policies intended to address climate change in his $2 trillion plan that, somewhat unexpectedly, has also earned a measure of support from the oil and gas industry — in part because it does not include a fracking ban. (Zack Wittman/The New York Times)
FILE — A solar energy farm that produces electricity for Florida Power & Light, in Babcock Ranch, Fla., May 7, 2019. Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden won over environmentalists and liberals with proposals and policies intended to address climate change in his $2 trillion plan that, somewhat unexpectedly, has also earned a measure of support from the oil and gas industry — in part because it does not include a fracking ban. (Zack Wittman/The New York Times)

The City of Beavercreek is considering including solar farm guidelines into the city’s zoning code.

Homeowners and business owners in Beavercreek are allowed to install and use solar panels for their own personal use, though they do need to get a permit from the city. However, if new language is approved by Beavercreek City Council, it would establish what a commercial solar farm in the city could look like.

“It (currently) doesn’t say that you can have them or that you can’t have them,” said Beavercreek City Planner Sandra Pereira. “It’s just something that’s never come up before I guess because no one has ever expressed interest.”

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That changed, though, when a real estate agent reached out on behalf of an unknown company to the Beavercreek Planning and Development department earlier this year to find out if a solar farm would be possible on a property. Pereira and her staff realized there was no language in the city’s code and decided to address it in the proposed 2020 zoning update.

The language of the proposed solar farm requirements can be viewed on the city’s website, under the Agenda Center.

The unidentified company possibly interested in a Beavercreek solar farm did not file any applications or provide a notification of plans for a solar farm, Pereira said.

City council will hear another reading of the proposed zoning updates, including solar farms, at its next meeting on Aug. 10 at 6 p.m. A public hearing will be held to listen to residents’ input.

“Even 20 minutes east of here, this is a very big and contentious issue that is going on in Greene County,” said councilman Glen Duerr. “So I might advocate for a second reading just because it’s the type of thing that might interest residents to discuss. Not far from here, there’s a number of proposals where this is quite controversial and it might interest residents to talk through in more detail.”

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Last year, farmers and property owners around the villages of Yellow Springs and Cedarville became concerned about the potential for a large solar farm being built in their rural community.

Township officials confirmed receiving a letter in 2019, representing Sydney, Australia-based company Lendlease about interest in a solar farm project. However, Lendlease has still not submitted an application or provided notification of plans for a solar farm in Greene County, confirmed Public Utilities Commission of Ohio spokesman Matt Schilling.

The ultimate authority on whether an electric-generating project of 50 megawatts or higher moves forward is the Ohio Power Siting Board, Schilling said.

If a company were interested in a project below the 50 megawatts threshold, then it would be under the City of Beavercreek’s discretion whether to approve the project.

“We haven’t gotten citizen input to know what might be an issue,” Pereira said. “But my first thought is people might not like the way that they look. Other than that I really don’t see the issue.”