Allen County quizzes trustees on wind, solar projects

LIMA — Now that local elected officials have a say about large wind and solar projects, Allen County asked township trustees for their thoughts.

Allen County Commissioner Beth Seibert and Assistant Prosecutor Kayla Campbell met with township trustees across the county Tuesday to talk about renewable energy projects.

The pair spoke extensively about Senate Bill 52, which became law last month, and what it means to Allen County.

The new law allows elected county officials to prohibit specific wind and solar projects from going forward after they have been reviewed. It also allows the officials to designate areas that are off-limits to large wind and solar farms.

Seibert said the commissioners have not yet decided as to whether they want to create a prohibition area. She said it is something they are looking into.

“We feel we have an obligation to at least consider whether or not we are going to prohibit areas in Allen County, but the Board of Allen County Commissioners has not made a decision to create a prohibited area.”

Locally, renewable energy has grabbed the attention of residents in Shawnee Township. A recent internal staff report from the Ohio Power Siting Board released its findings of the investigation of the Birch Solar I project, to potentially be located in Allen and Auglaize counties, and recommended to the board to not certify the project for approval.

The project has been the subject of controversy since it was first introduced by LightsourceBP in late 2020, with residents raising concerns on everything from environmental impact to the project’s size and scope. OPSB found in its investigation the project would comply and fit within the area’s power grid, but it could not conclude that it would come without adverse environmental impact.

More area officials have recently expressed their concerns to the OPSB about the project, including Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman.

“Taking into account both the concerns raised by local officials and the outpouring of opposition from the general public, it is clear that Birch Solar 1 is not supported by many of those who would be most impacted by the project. I would like to add my name to this list, and express my opposition to this project,” Huffman wrote in a letter to the OPSB.

The report has drawn uncertainty to the project, with the OPSB still hasn’t ruled on. Senate Bill 52 doesn’t affect it, as it was approved after the project was already proposed.

According to Seibert, the commissioners will wait until next year to decide on prohibited areas, with the commissioners asking townships to submit their input next month with plans to start discussions in August.

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