A great victory was achieved this week for the warriors of Seneca County when two of the three County Commissioners voted to repeal the county’s designation as an Alternative Energy Zone. Seneca County now joins Van Wert as a county which has repealed their designation. Remaining AEZ counties include Sandusky, Delaware, Franklin, Putnam, Paulding, Hardin, Clinton, Noble and Summit. Recently, requests to approve individual PILOT requests were turned down in Logan, Huron and Erie Counties. Had these counties been designated AEZ, tax abatement and PILOT payments would have been automatically granted.
Dale Arnold and the traveling Farm Bureau circus made an appearance in Urbana this week to tout the latest “ag commodity” – solar energy. Harvest away. We are still waiting to farm coal and gas, maybe raise a little nuclear. Among the points reported to us by attendees were that many of Ohio’s 33 solar companies have left the state because permitting is difficult; solar projects under 50 MW are subject to local zoning; 10 solar projects are in the OPSB pipeline; and permitting can take between 36 and 48 months.
PILOT is apparently important to solar developers. According to a summary report written in 2010 by the law firm of Bricker & Eckler, PILOT “significantly reduced the state tax burden on renewable and advanced sources of energy generation, such as solar, wind, co-generation, and clean coal. Under the old laws, taxes on solar and wind were estimated to be approximately $115,000 and $40,000 per megawatt (MW), respectively – rendering Ohio a less competitive marketplace for deployment of these technologies.” Current PILOT law reduces the tax burden on qualifying projects to $6,000 to $9,000 for wind and $7,000 per MW for solar.
There appears to be interest in solar in Champaign County. One concern being monitored is Commissioner Steve Hess’s continued focus on patterning Champaign County’s revised Comprehensive Plan after Clinton County. As noted earlier, Clinton County is an Alternative Energy Zone. The law establishing the Ohio PILOT program expires in 2020 but will certainly come back in some form or else the renewable lobby will try to permanently revise the relevant tax laws.
One final point that was stressed at the FB presentation was an encouragement for township trustees to have solar zoning in place. The FB has offered to assist with development of solar zoning ordinances. No thank you.
Attached to this issue of Wind News is a very readable publication by Mark Mills of the Manhattan Institute. We think it will make you laugh out loud as Mills explains the physics of energy and shows why there is no possibility that the world is undergoing— or can undergo—a near-term transition to a “new energy economy.” Mills takes on wind, solar and battery storage. One example: “The annual output of Tesla’s Gigafactory, the world’s largest battery factory, could store three minutes’ worth of annual U.S. electricity demand. It would require 1,000 years of production to make enough batteries for two days’ worth of U.S. electricity demand.” The US routinely maintains two months of stored energy to meet demand in the event of emergency. You do the math.
An interesting bill was introduced recently. HB 126 would bar an action challenging an act for violation of the one-subject rule if it is commenced later than 275 days after the act’s effective date. This has applicability to the lawsuit filed in Paulding County by wind leaseholders and AWEA against the state which alleges current setbacks violate the Ohio Constitution because they were included in a budget bill in 2014. HB 126 would forbid a lawsuit like the one filed in Paulding County unless it was filed 275 after it was enacted. Rep. Seitz is a co-sponsor of this bill.