A solar power challenge in Allen and Auglaize counties has been killed by state officers because of opposition from native governments, though the applying for the challenge was filed earlier than a brand new Ohio regulation was put in place giving county governments the power to nix such initiatives.
In an opinion and order issued final Thursday, the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) denied an utility from Birch Solar looking for to assemble a 300 megawatt solar farm sited on 1,410 acres in Allen and Auglaize counties. The OPSB mentioned their opinion supporting native authorities opposition to the challenge was impartial of the brand new regulation.
Before development can start on any main utility facility or economically vital wind farm throughout the state of Ohio, a certificates of environmental compatibility and public want have to be obtained from the OPSB, which has voting members of its board representing numerous state departments together with growth, pure sources, agriculture, environmental safety, and well being; a public engineer appointed by the governor; and the chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).
The OPSB board order acknowledged “numerous public benefits” from solar initiatives, however mentioned that each one 4 authorities entities with bodily contacts to this challenge acted to oppose certification of it.
This contains the Allen County commissioners, the Auglaize County commissioners, Shawnee Township in Allen County, and Logan Township in Auglaize County. The OPSB additionally famous public feedback filed towards the challenge within the case, saying they got here in at a ratio of roughly 80% opposed and 20% in assist.
In October 2021, a brand new state regulation gave native governments veto power over renewable energy technology websites — a veto power that doesn’t exist for fossil gasoline developments. The worldwide scientific neighborhood has continued to situation grave warnings concerning the impacts of artificial local weather change and the necessity to shift away from fossil fuels.
The OPSB mentioned in a footnote to their order that this case was not impacted by the brand new regulation, which solely applies to initiatives filed after Oct. 11, 2021. Birch Solar started the method for submitting for approval from the OPSB in October 2020.
“Nevertheless, the (OPSB’s) obligation to determine a project’s compliance with the public interest, convenience, and necessity remains in effect as to Birch Solar’s application,” the OPSB decided. “Accordingly, the (OPSB) must consider, independent of (the new law), the manner and degree of opposition of local governments impacted by the project as it relates to whether the project is in the public interest, convenience, and necessity.”
In April of this 12 months, each the Allen and Auglaize county commissioners handed resolutions banning giant wind and solar initiatives in unincorporated areas of their counties. They are amongst almost a dozen county boards of fee in Ohio to take action.
Allen County is home to Lima, Ohio, the hometown of each Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp and Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, who each voted for the regulation giving native governments the power to axe wind and solar initiatives.
As OCJ has reported, the siting board’s employees this summer season really useful towards granting a allow to construct a solar farm in Greene County able to powering an estimated 34,000 properties per 12 months. That proposed 175-megawatt challenge sits on 1,500 acres of rural land in townships of Miami, Xenia, and Cedarville, together with about half a mile from Gov. Mike DeWine’s personal yard. DeWine has instructed reporters he has averted taking a place on that challenge. The OPSB itself has not but made a dedication in that case.
In its determination final week, the OPSB famous the Allen and Auglaize county resolutions towards renewable energy initiatives, stating that, “The primary concern surrounding the project results from the uniform public opposition expressed by the local government entities whose constituents are impacted by the project.”
Regarding the general public opposition to the Birch Solar challenge in particular, submitted in feedback, the OPSB mentioned that whereas they’re much less dependable than admitted proof, they’re related to consideration of the matter.
“We note that the opposition public comments reinforce issues raised in both the local public hearing and the local government communications that oppose the project,” the OPSB wrote. “Hence, the public comments reinforce, rather than contradict, the conclusions of government bodies that were formally considered at the local level, as well as those who testified at the local public hearing.”
The OPSB’s opinion did acknowledge the “numerous public benefits” of “all proposed solar facilities,” together with the general public’s curiosity in energy technology; financial advantages relative to elevated employment and tax income; air high quality and local weather affect enhancements relative to transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources; defending landowner rights; and preserving agricultural land use.
Regardless, the opposition from native governments outweighed these items. The OPSB wrote that they rejected the candidates’ conclusion that native governments have waned of their opposition in any manner. They cited the truth that Allen County and Auglaize County have each issued resolutions this 12 months reiterating their opposition, as has Shawnee Township, and that not one of the entities delivered any discover that they’d modified their opposition.
“Based on the unanimous and consistent opposition to the Project by the government entities whose constituents are impacted by the Project, the Board finds that the Project fails to serve the public interest, convenience, and necessity as required by (Ohio Revised Code),” the OPSB decided.
The web site for the Birch Solar challenge estimates 400 native jobs would’ve been created by the challenge, bringing in $2.7 million in new annual income for colleges in addition to native and county governments, and investments of $4.6 million in annual working bills spent within the area.
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