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Ohio is seen as a test state for solar farms. An increasing number of counties are banning them

Ann Thompson
From power producer Innergex: "Amazon Solar Farm Ohio – Hillcrest is a 200 MW solar energy facility located in Brown County, Ohio in the United States. At the time of its commissioning, on May 11, 2021, it was the largest solar energy facility in the state of Ohio."

Butler County is one of many Ohio counties and townships banning solar farms after Ohio Senate Bill 52 gave local governments the power to reject solar farm proposals.

Ohio led the nation in solar and wind farm rejections in 2022, according to an author and podcaster tracking such data.

Robert Bryce says more than 40 Ohio townships banned either wind or solar, or both, in 2022. He says that's a direct result of Senate Bill 52, which gives local governments control. Butler County is one county banning them.

"Let's make it clear," says Bryce, "wind and solar poll very well. You look at any kind of public opinion polls, the public loves the idea of these. The problem is they just don't want to live near these projects."

Late last year the Ohio Siting Board, which approves solar and wind farms, rejected Kingwood Solar's application to build a 175 megawatt solar farm in Green County.

Also at the end of 2022, solar power opponents prevailed in Williamsport, Ohio, according to Inside Climate News.

This month the Siting Board rejected a Defiance County solar project. And the list goes on.

"Ohio has become one of the hottest states, without a doubt, when it comes to these land-use conflicts over wind and solar," Bryce says.

Cincinnati has the largest municipal solar project in the nation, but not everyone is happy about it as WVXU reported in 2021.

What is driving solar farm growth in Ohio?

Solar analyst with Wood Mackenzie Matthew Sahd says, "cheap land, land availability and corporations like Amazon and the Metas and the Microsofts of the world."

“We predict that Ohio is going to be a region that will see very explosive solar growth, even in the midst of recent rejection," says Sahd.

He forecasts 4.6 gigawatt of growth from 2022-2025 and 16 GW between 2022-2030. Sahd explains 1 megawatt provides power to 110 homes in Ohio, and that means over 1.7 million homes in Ohio could be powered by new solar by 2030.

Sahd is seeing energy companies pivot because of solar farm opposition. "Whether it's downsizing their projects, creating ties much earlier in the process with the community or highlighting the tax values that are going to school districts, I've even seen things like scholarship funds or donations that have been added to the local community."

Both Sahd and Bryce say solutions include using brownfields for solar or planting crops alongside solar. This is agrivoltaics.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.