legislation to give township voters the right of referendum

Today’s issue of Wind News will focus on the legislation to give township voters the right of referendum on utility scale wind and solar; the status of multiple projects under active development in Ohio and the threat of rising insurance premiums in the industry as a result of an increase in natural disasters like hail and flooding, and from fires, poor maintenance and shoddy workmanship.

On March 9th, a group wind and solar warriors traveled to Columbus to testify in the House and the Senate in favor of Senate Bill 52 and House Bill 118.  Both of these bills would provide citizens with the right to petition for a referendum in support of or opposition to utility-scale wind or solar projects in their township.   In addition to oral testimony, nearly 100 citizens from impacted communities submitted written testimony in favor of the bills.  Copies of testimony are available on the websites of the committees or you can watch the video in the House Public Utilities Committee at: https://www.ohiochannel.org/video/ohio-house-public-utilities-committee-3-9-2021  (Start at the 48 minute mark of the video.)  In the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, proponent testimony for SB 52 was given and can be viewed at: https://www.ohiochannel.org/video/ohio-senate-energy-and-public-utilities-committee-3-9-2021.

The reception to the testimony appeared to be positive overall.  On Tuesday, March 23rd, the House Public Utilities Committee will meet at 11:00 am in Room 313 to hear opponent testimony on HB 118. In the afternoon at 2:15, the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee will consider SB 52 following a presentation by  grid operator PJM.  These hearings will be live broadcast on http://www.ohiochannel.org/live/ohio-house-public-utilities-committee and https://www.ohiochannel.org/live/ohio-senate-energy-and-public-utilities-committee.  We expect to see strong arguments from the Solar lobby to remove utility scale solar from the bill.  Testimony will also likely be offered by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Manufacturing Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and well as assorted “environmental advocates”.

In addition to media coverage of the referendum legislation, there is much discussion across the country about where renewables can be sited without opposition from rural communities.  The more development we see, the more opposition is generated among rural citizens who are witnessing the destruction of not only their community but their way of life.  The renewable lobby is hard at work to overturn local zoning control in Indiana and Illinois while in New York, Gov. Cuomo pulled the rug out from under people in the western part of the state at the behest of Invenergy.  Please read Gary Abraham’s excellent piece entitled Renewable energy vs. the environment.

 An additional  observation here is the ramped up advocacy from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. (IBEW)   They were vocal advocates for keeping the nuclear plants open and now they are popping up everywhere advocating for PILOT so that their members will be guaranteed jobs to meet the Ohio-domiciled workforce requirements. They ran an op-ed in Lima and they are all over Highland and Ross Counties.  Keep an eye peeled for them to pop up wherever PILOT is proposed.

Elsewhere

Highland County – Former Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings spoke before the Highland County commissioners Wednesday concerning the ongoing solar farms debate. As previously reported in The Times-Gazette, there are a total of 10 such electrical generating facilities either proposed, pending, approved or approaching completion in and around Highland County.  “I, like a lot of people, have been reading a lot out there about solar, and what’s coming in and the number of projects,” Hastings said. “And I started getting concerned about the county becoming inundated with these things and thinking we’ll end up an energy ghetto out here with projects on every corner with the county getting taken advantage of.”  But he told the commissioners that after doing his own research, his feelings went from being disturbed and concerned to recognizing something that he called “being historic almost for this county, with solar being just about the biggest business to come here.”

 Ross and Pickaway County – Will be home to a 274 MW solar project called Yellowbud developed by National Grid Renewables.  It will span about 2,000 acres.  Derek Hasek, a Senior Developer for the project, says that locals have been largely very receptive to the project after the benefits of it were explained to them. “You’ll always have a few NIMBYs and CAVE people- Not In My Back Yard and Citizens Against Virtually Everything- but we do the best to balance as best we can.”  Ross County has approved the project for PILOT and the Pickaway County Commissioners will soon be asked to grant PILOT as well.

Champaign County –The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) will hold a public hearing regarding Clearview Solar I, LLC’s proposal to construct a 144-megawatt solar farm in Adams Township in Champaign County. The hearing will be conducted at 6 p.m. . Clearview Solar is a project by Open Road Renewables.

Huron County – Apex is developing Emerson Creek Wind, a potential wind turbine facility, that will be located on open farmland in Erie and Huron counties.  On Thursday, the commissioners approved PILOT following the most tortured and stupid discussion imaginable.  Former State Rep. and current Commissioner Terry Boose said this legislation has “nothing to do about whether we’re for or against wind energy.” He said the decision comes down to how the county will receive money through the project, whether that’s through a pilot or property tax.  “This has nothing to do with whether Apex is coming or not, that’s up to the sitting board. If they are coming, we want to make sure that we’re going to be paid,” Commissioner Skip Wilde said.   Among other things, the Commissioners worried that if Apex didn’t agree with their valuation of the wind project, they might get sued.  Boose is the Controller for Norwalk Concrete. The Commissioners also refused to endorse HB 118 or SB 52.

Union County – The Union County Commissioners have hired a Columbus based law firm to help them prepare for several proposed and potential solar farms.  Last month, the county commissioners voted to retain the law firm of Frost, Brown and Todd for the purpose of handling matters related to solar development projects in Union County.  In 2020, Invenergy and Acciona Energy each applied for permission from the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) to construct solar energy projects in the northern part of the county. Union County Commissioner Chris Schmenk said that while Invenergy and Acciona have formally proposed plans, several other energy companies are looking at the area. “We felt the need to quickly get up to speed on these,” Schmenk said.  She added that the commissioners “really felt like we needed to have expertise on what to expect and what this impact could be on the county and the entire region.” Schmenk said the energy companies will have strong attorneys, “and we just felt it would be best if we did too.” The Acciona Energy project, named Union Solar, is a planned 250 megawatt solar-powered electric generating facility on about 3,500 acres near the intersection of routes 31 and 739 in York and Washington townships. Construction of that facility is set to begin in the first quarter of 2022. Acciona officials said it could be scheduled to be in service by the first quarter of 2023. Invenergy’s proposed project, Cadence Solar Energy Center, is a 275 megawatt solar-powered electric generation facility. The company already has about 5,100 acres under lease in Union County. The majority of the land is south of Route 47, between Yearsly and Storms roads and north of Route 347.