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Clark County commissioners open to large scale renewable energy projects

A sign in front of the Historic Clifton Mill
Chris Welter
A sign in front of the Historic Clifton Mill

Clark county commissioners rejected a proposal to restrict where large solar farms can be constructed last month. The commission's president, Melanie Flax Wilt, said the decision to do so came down to landowner property rights.

Some context: Ohio Senate Bill 52 passed last year. It gave county commissioners the ability to restrict where large-scale renewable energy projects can be located. The bill came out of a Republican led state house–some of them representing rural communities where renewable projects had become contentious. The Ohio Farm Bureau said Senate Bill 52 was “a pretty new and unprecedented government restriction on land use.”

In general, renewable energy advocates and land lessees—who can make up to five times more money leasing their properties for renewable projects when compared to conventionally farming the ground—have favored large scale projects while lots of rural homeowners–who like the farmland aesthetic in their backyards–and some farmers oppose them because of concerns about property values and alternate use of farmland. Misinformation about large scale renewable energy projects has also permeated into some of the debates around proposed facilities in Ohio.

So far, Auglaize, Butler, Greene and Logan counties have used the new law to ban most large scale solar and wind projects.

President Flax Wilt said in an interview with WYSO that her commission is going in a different direction when it comes to large scale renewable energy projects– in part because they all believe that people have a right to do what they want with their land.

"If somebody said to a neighbor, ‘I don't like you flying your American flag, and so therefore I don't want you to fly the American flag anymore’, and then a government entity came in and said, ‘You can no longer fly the American flag on your own private property’, that would be pretty concerning to people," Wilt said.

She also said that even though the county doesn't have a ban, the commission will review each proposed large scale renewable energy project to determine if it's a good fit.

"I don't know that we will be perceived as friendly to solar but our goal is to be perceived as fair," she said.

Chris Welter is a reporter and corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.