solar energy

Adhere to on-site solar checklist before signing installation agreement

Ohio Farm Bureau members across the state are looking at personal use, on-site solar as a tool to help them control their energy costs.

Dale Arnold, OFBF director of energy, utility and local government policy, said before making any agreement landowners need to “do their homework.

“There is no such thing as an ‘off the rack’ system,” Arnold said. “Given electric load profiles, tariffs, metering and interconnection procedures, an on-site system will be uniquely designed and equipped to adhere to operation and safety standards.”

Property owners need to understand the standards and shouldn’t let a contractor do it for them, he said.

Points to consider:

  • Certification: Experienced installers adhere to North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners certification.
  • Audit: Perform an energy audit first. Following an in-place energy efficiency strategy will maximize savings now and will enhance the effectiveness of an on-site system if installed. Contact your electric utility or local community action agency for program information.
  • Financing: Government loan, tax abatement and grant programs are highly competitive and adhere to strict operation and safety standards. However, traditional sources of financing are available for properly designed and approved systems.
  • Interconnection: Your utility will be responsible for interconnection, project design requirements and metering.  Contact your representative to discuss the procedures, fees and approved service charges to accommodate on-site systems.
  • Neighborhood relationships: Many jurisdictions have rules on siting, maintenance and decommissioning. Discuss your plans with the respective zoning authority.
  • Credits: As a system owner, landowners earn tradeable Renewable Energy Credits. Some companies offer “savings agreements” that are contracts where customers sell their RECs at a steep discount. Landowners could find themselves obligated to keep their systems under operation to avoid REC nondelivery penalties.

Farm Bureau offers consultant lists and energy briefings for members exploring on-site generation for farms, homes and small businesses. For more information, contact the county Farm Bureau office.

Sheep production considered on utility scale solar farms

Farmers and energy developers are exploring how they can work together on energy projects. While sheep production could be compatible with large, utility scale solar generation, state and federal regulations concerning power generation prioritize facility operation over animal husbandry.

“Both parties need to recognize opportunities and accommodate requirements as they forge long-term relationships,” Arnold said.

Issues to consider include the authority of the Ohio Power Siting Board and lease provisions. The OPSB could approve sheep production as a conservation management and maintenance tool on facility grounds.

All sheep production provisions will be carefully detailed in stipulations and orders leading to the project’s certificate (permit) approval. These provisions will be enforced during the life of the project, which could last several decades. A decision to discontinue sheep production at any time could mean additional OPSB case work and amendments to the facility’s management plans.

As for lease provisions, the developer is typically responsible for security, operations, landscaping and vegetation management. Consequently, the lease will usually give the company exclusive land use rights to fulfill these obligations.

Provisions to address for on-site sheep production:

  • Placement of all support infrastructure (livestock barns, equipment storage, water supplies, paddocks, fencing, as well as on-site housing for the herdsman).
  • Property access for the herdsman, as well as ultimate size and movement of the flock within the confines of the facility.
  • Insurance and a risk management to address potential solar generation equipment damage by the flock and vice versa.