PHOTO FROM WAYNEOHIO.ORG
The Wayne County Commissioners typically meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday mornings. Meetings are open to the public. People also can view meetings virtually and register for virtual meetings online at https://www.wayneohio.org/wayne-county-commissioners-public-meeting-details
WOOSTER After one month of increasing public awareness of proposed utility-scale solar projects for farmland, Wayne County Commissioners decided June 7 to continue investigating and holding discussions until Wednesday, July 12.
Commissioners issued new notices that targeted July 12 as the day for considering regulatory action in the 9 a.m. regular meeting on the second floor of the county administration building at 428 West Liberty St., Wooster.
“We think it is possible to negotiate a more acceptable utility-scale solar installation by using a regulatory barrier as leverage,” a notice states. “This possibility came out of a discussion with a number of local citizens who would like to see this approach actively considered.
“It has been suggested that we consider agrivoltaics as a means of incorporating vegetation and/or animals as a possible resolution. We would like to have further discussion on this. We would also like to ensure that neighbors of these large solar arrays are properly protected and don’t have unsightly fencing or other detriments to adjacent property. There is also the need to further investigate the loss of neighboring property values when these large solar farms are installed.
“This prohibition or moratorium will give everyone time to assure that we are moving forward in a responsible manner and protecting everyone who may be affected by these solar developments,” the notice continues.
An earlier release at the end of June noted that installing large-scale solar electric generation on Wayne County farmland was becoming a topic of policy discussion.
Wayne County Commissioners decided on May 3, to bring this issue into the light of public consideration by giving notice that it intends to consider exercising state government delegated authority to prohibit some large solar and wind farms. Since then, there has been growing discussion in the county on this complex issue. The primary concern involves the possible loss of 400-800 acres of prime farmland to one or two very large solar fields.
The county provided answers to some of the major questions the issue poses:
Would this be saying “no” to all solar installations in Wayne County?
No, there are three ways that solar electricity would continue to be allowed. 1) Small installations, such as on rooftops, parking lots, and other areas, would not be affected. 2) Large installations under 50 megawatts that would take up to 500 acres would still be permissible because they could only be regulated under different requirements that would involve enacting township zoning. 3) The proposed prohibition could be modified in the future to permit large fields on non-prime land.
Does following this path mean that the commissioners are opposed to solar generation of electricity?
No, we see value in this supplemental means of generating electricity when there is sunlight and to reducing the need to burn carbon fuels. Our concern is focused on conserving production agricultural land.
Why is solar generation of electricity being considered here in our county?
Some of the major reasons are: 1) Governmental mandates and subsidies for large-scale solar installations are making them more profitable. 2) These installations seem to be following the path of least resistance, such as on areas reclaimed after strip mining and large unzoned agricultural lands 3) There are electric grid substations in our county that make it attractive to connect large solar fields near them. 4) Costs of solar installation have dropped significantly in recent years.
Shouldn’t owners of farmland be free to sell or lease their land for other uses?
This is a major question. The commissioners believe that a community discussion with the landowners is warranted. We do not live in isolation on islands that have no impact on our neighbors. While these kinds of discussions can be difficult and controversial, the commissioners see conserving Wayne County’s production agricultural base as important enough to address this issue. This value was expressed strongly by extensive public participation recently during the updating of our county comprehensive plan.
To be clear, the article from the county states, the Commissioners are not proposing to prohibit all alternative energy projects. The restriction prevents utility-scale energy production. A new utility is a community issue that should have a majority in support of the location, and project size, with clearly understood accountability from concept to end of life. For-profit companies are actively seeking land in Wayne County, and the commissioners believe the residents of Wayne County should have a say in a new utility.
Ultimately, landowners and solar power companies may be able to skirt state and local regulations. Commissioners also acknowledge the need to seek additional support to maintain the viability of production agriculture in order to secure this source of our future food supply, the article states.