COLUMBUS — As the Ohio House session stretched into late Monday night and early Tuesday morning, state Republicans scored a big win by passing a bill restricting wind and solar farms.
Senate Bill 52 will now head to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk for approval.
In Shawnee Township, residents are still at odds with LightSourceBP over the contentious Birch Solar Project. According to LightSourceBP Development Director Shanelle Montana, the project is far enough along in development that it will be protected by a grandfather clause in the bill.
“We’re still going to continue to try to work with them to make it a better project if it is built,” said Jim Thompson III, one of the main community organizers against the project. “(We will) oppose it all the way through the Ohio Power Siting Board, and, if need be, the Supreme Court.”
For LightSourceBP, the project is still moving forward as planned.
“We are all systems go right now on Birch,” Montana said. “Right now, we’re continuing to work through the regulatory process.”
Senate Bill 52 creates greater regulation on renewable energy sources, allowing more public input and giving townships control on where wind and solar projects can be built in their areas.
Township trustees will have a greater ability to reject the projects that come to their neighborhoods. If a project is deemed not to be in the best interest of the local public, the township board has until the OPSB issues the final certificate of approval to reject it.
In the long term, the bill could be seen as a victory for proponents of property rights but could also be a major blow to renewable energy companies looking to break ground in Ohio. State Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, a primary sponsor of the bill, talked the legislation up as a win for small government.
“Unfortunately, there have been energy projects across the state that have faced unanimous opposition in their area of operation, yet were still allowed to proceed,” McColley said. “This bill will allow for developers and local elected officials to cooperate and find amicable solutions to these projects.”
Thompson said Shawnee Township residents are still hopeful that the Birch Solar Project will not come to fruition, citing the OPSB’s recent denial of the Republic Wind Farm proposed in Seneca County. Public opposition became one of the main factors that led to the demise of the project.
“I know many people in our group have gotten a glimmer of hope,” he said. “And now with Senate Bill 52 passing, that hope is building a little bit, but in the long term, I don’t see LightSourceBP running away.”
Based on his conversations with various Ohio lawmakers, Thompson said he is confident that DeWine will sign the bill into law.