Saturday, October 1st, 2022

County holds renewable energy, maps meeting

By Bob Tomaszewski
CELINA - Mercer County commissioners on Thursday held an informational meeting about potential maps restricting renewable energy development for the county.
County administrator Kim Everman explained by inviting public feedback at the meeting, commissioners could potentially make adjustments to draft maps before going through the formal hearing process.
Commissioners under Ohio Senate Bill 52 which took effect Oct. 11, 2021, are authorized to regulate certain renewable energy generation facilities by designating all or parts of unincorporated areas as restricted, according to county documents. They have no such regulatory authority in incorporated villages and the city of Celina.
Preliminary draft maps currently prohibit development of large scale wind farms in all unincorporated areas except Jefferson Township. Large scale solar developments would be allowed only in unincorporated Granville, Marion and Jefferson townships. Those drafts were made after discussions with township trustees.
Commissioner Jerry Laffin explained commissioners are trying to be proactive in forming the maps instead of reacting to potential developments.
If commissioners adopt a resolution designating the restricted areas, the maps would take effect after 30 days. In that 30-day window, 8% of county voters may petition for a referendum to challenge commissioners' designations on a ballot.
A handful of county residents at the meeting gave their opinion on the subject, all of whom were in favor of commissioners creating maps to restrict renewable energy developments. Residents voiced concerns about government subsidies, effects on agricultural land and the aesthetics of large scale renewable projects.
Jim Tesno of Franklin Township told commissioners he isn't a fan of turbines in Van Wert County.
"Aesthetically I think they are a blight," he said. "It's horrible."
Tesno also said he heard the electricity made by the Van Wert turbines is shipped out of the area.
"They don't even get the advantage of the production," Tesno said. "Economically the only reason they are functional at all is because of the government subsidies. Personally I'm against them and I commend the commissioners for what they have done."
"Small solar makes sense," said attendee Mark Hagerty. "When you are looking at larger solar you start taking up farmland."
Hagerty was also concerned about cadmium leaching into the ground from solar cells, permanently affecting farm ground.
Attendee Brad Burkholder also voiced concern at the meeting.
"I do a lot of business around Paulding and Van Wert counties. Those windmills are everywhere up there," he said. "It's ugly."
In addition, Burkholder said he has issues with government subsidies.
"If you can't make that business run without government money then I'm sorry, it shouldn't be a business," he said.
Mercer County Engineer Jim Wiechart said he owns a 40-acre parcel of land in Allen County and received a letter from a solar company about leasing a portion of his land.
"They (the power company) weren't aware that Allen County had restricted that area which they had," Wiechart said. "(A representative) said, 'Well even though it's restricted, if its under 50 (megawatts) you can still develop 25-30 acres.'"
Wiechart said he is also familiar with drainage concerns for solar farms in the area.
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