County now regulates large solar utilities

County now regulates large solar utilities

Since 2021 county commissioners have been authorized to regulate developers seeking to construct large-scale solar and wind utility projects of 50 megawatts or greater.


Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series about the road to regulating large solar utility projects in Wayne County. Ohio authorizes county governments to regulate large solar utilities.

State officials enacted Senate Bill 52 in 2021, which authorizes county commissioners to regulate developers seeking to construct large-scale solar and wind utility projects of 50 megawatts or greater.

“Our primary concern is that agricultural productivity not be disrupted on prime farmland in our county,” Wayne County commissioner Ron Amstutz said. “These provisions of state law authorize county governments to only regulate utility-level solar projects with a capacity of 50 megawatts or more. These projects require vast amounts of acreage, which is where our concern is focused.”

According to an American Planning Association publication, unlike many land uses, these types of solar installations will occupy vast tracts of land for one or more generations. They require local resources to monitor during construction (and presumably decommissioning); they can have impacts on the community depending on their location, buffers, installation techniques and other factors. They are not readily adaptable for other industrial or commercial uses, hence the need for decommissioning.

Separate state legislation, House Bill 501, also was enacted, effective April 6, 2023, authorizing local governments to regulate solar projects under 50 megawatts, but only through township or county zoning. Chippewa Township is the only township with zoning in Wayne County. If zoning were contemplated, it is estimated to be a year and a half process.

The commissioners first gave notice of their intent to take up a regulatory resolution during the first week of May. After a 10-week process, the commissioners passed the resolution unanimously on July 12.

“This is not the end of our process, as two companies have expressed interest in having further discussions with the commissioners and our community,” Amstutz said. “We know that we have scientists and community members that are exploring possibilities for establishing productive agricultural practices on the same land with utility-scale solar installations. We are interested in exploring that possibility as these developments may occur and prove to be effective.”

Dan Starcher is the public communications coordinator for the Wayne County government.

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