solar panels

A recently enacted piece of legislation regarding solar and wind power signals a shift in landowner rights when it comes to the location of these energy developments. 

Senate Bill 52 gives county commissioners new authority to decide on which areas within their jurisdiction solar and wind development can take place. Commissioners also have authority to ban development in certain areas entirely. There is a window for those opposed to the commissioners’ decision to intervene with a petition, but it is a slim 30-day time frame. 

“That’s a pretty new and unprecedented government restriction on land use and something that we’re concerned about,” said Brandon Kern, senior director of state and national policy for Ohio Farm Bureau. “If you look at the process of zoning, the decisions that are made to implement zoning in an unincorporated area in a county are much more thorough. Voters have to give government permission to go down that road, not just government automatically having the ability to place those restrictions on land use in unincorporated areas. So we’re concerned about that piece of it and the precedent that it sets.”  

The legislation, which takes effect in October, has a significant impact on these projects before they ever reach the Ohio Power Siting Board process, which is the first public review of a project that has generally taken place. Before construction can begin on any major utility facility or economically significant wind farm within the state of Ohio, a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need must be obtained from the OPSB. But often, the public and even the affected landowner may not understand the scope of a project until it is well into the OPSB process. 

While Ohio Farm Bureau took a position against the legislation based on the precedent it set, Kern said there were provisions of SB 52 which the policy set by Farm Bureau members clearly supported, including the need for transparency about the energy projects. 

“We certainly understand the concern about transparency, having an understanding for community members and for the landowners involved regarding, quite frankly, the scale and scope of these projects,” he said. Farm Bureau had proposed a measured approach to balancing landowner rights and transparency that did not make it into the final version of the bill. 

SB 52 will have an immediate impact on projects around the state, according to Ohio Farm Bureau Policy Counsel Leah Curtis. If a wind project application has already been certified complete by OPSB or a solar project has a completed system impact study from PJM Interconnection that has been paid for, those will be allowed to move forward.

“Anything that has reached those stages will advance the way it always has with the power siting board,” Curtis said. “Local residents who may be interested and local governments can intervene in those proceedings, just as they always have been able to. However, if you are involved with (wind or solar) developers and have not reached that stage, it is possible that (SB 52) will apply.”

Online extra

In this Legal with Leah, Ohio Farm Bureau’s Policy Counsel, Leah Curtis, talks about the consequences of the legislation and what those currently in a lease or thinking about a lease need to know.


Ohio Farm Bureau · Legal With Leah – SB 52: Know Your Rights On Wind And Solar
Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
Ernie Welch's avatar
Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

Strong communities
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.
Jaclyn De Candio's avatar
Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

Young Ag Professionals program
With not growing up on a farm, I’d say I was a late bloomer to agriculture. I feel so fortunate that I found the agriculture industry. There are so many opportunities for growth.
Jenna Gregorich's avatar
Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
Jared Hughes's avatar
Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

Suggested Tags: