LIMA — The Allen County Board of Commissioners continued to discuss their role in renewable energy in the county on Thursday. Much of the conversation was focused on what they are allowed to do once Senate Bill 52 becomes law on October 11.
One of the biggest abilities handed to the commissioners from the law is the power to designate areas in which wind and solar farms are allowed to develop projects. On the flip side, they also have the ability to designate areas where development would be prohibited. They only have the power to do so in unincorporated areas of the county, making a community-based approach vital for Allen County specifically. This has left the commissioners to work closely with the various townships in Allen County that have seen renewable energy proposals come their way.
Instead of swaying one way or the other on how and where to draw the lines, Allen County is taking a ‘wait and see’ approach, not wanting to exclude any input from the townships.
The law has been of particular interest to Allen County because of the proposed Birch Solar I project, which would have a major impact on Shawnee Township. Since Birch was proposed, other projects have been discussed in places like Perry Township as well, but no project has solidified quite like Birch.
“We’re expecting that some counties in the state, boards of commissioners, are going to dedicate all of the unincorporated portions as a prohibited area,” said Allen County Commissioner Beth Seibert. “We have made no such decisions, but we truthfully want the input of the townships to make that final decision.”
Seibert also said that SB52 leaves the door open to changes when it comes to designating areas. Prohibited areas could be changed down the road depending on the situation, but once a prohibition is sent to and recorded by the Ohio Power Siting Board, the OPSB cannot accept any applications for proposed projects.
Local control is at the heart of SB52, which is why Allen County wants to consider all options and opinions before any big decisions are made.
“As a whole (state legislators) observed a lack of local control and a lack of public input in the process,” Seibert said. “Senate Bill 52 is dedicated to restoring that in a county, so we’re just preparing to serve in that role, but we want to do it with as much input as possible from our township trustees.”
Reach Trevor Hubert at 567-242-0398