Marion County Commissioners approve wind energy restrictions for Grand Prairie Twp.

The Marion County Board of Commissioners has approved a resolution restricting the development of wind energy projects in Grand Prairie Township.

The commissioners voted 3-0 during their meeting on Thursday to approve the measure which, according to the language contained in the resolution, prohibits the construction of an "'economically significant wind farm' and/or 'large wind farm'" as defined in the Ohio Revised Code. The restriction applies to all of the unincorporated areas of Grand Prairie Township.

According to Section 4 of Ohio Senate Bill 52, which went into effect on Oct. 11, 2021, the restrictions "shall not apply to any application for a certificate, or material amendment to an existing certificate, from the (Ohio) power siting board." Senate Bill 52 allows county commissioners "to prevent Ohio Power Siting Board certification of certain wind and solar facilities by adopting a resolution designating all or part of the unincorporated area of the county as a restricted area."

Grand Prairie Township is the ninth township in Marion County to enact restrictions on the development of renewable energy projects, but is the first to place limits only on wind energy. The other eight townships passed resolutions limiting the development of both solar and wind energy projects. Previously, Big Island, Claridon, Green Camp, Pleasant, Prospect, Richland, Salt Rock, and Waldo township trustees voted to restrict both solar and wind facility development.

Bowling Green, Grand, Montgomery, Scott, and Tully townships have yet to pass resolutions regarding solar and wind energy development. A large-scale solar facility is slated to be built in northern Marion Township close the border with Grand Prairie Township.

Grand Prairie Township Trustee Jim Schertzer said township officials are open to the possibility of solar energy development. However, he noted, thus far there has been no interest expressed by renewable energy companies in locating projects in Grand Prairie Township.

The southwestern section of Grand Prairie Township sets in close proximity to the area of Marion Township where a proposed solar energy project is being developed. Marion County Solar Project LLC (MCSP) received approval from the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) in November 2021 to build a 100 megawatt solar energy facility on approximately 700 acres of land in Marion Township. The company has leased a total of 970 acres of land in the township from property owner Kepford-Gottfried, Inc.

In July 2022, the Marion County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement with Marion County Solar Project LLC to build a solar farm in northern Marion Township. It's expected to generate $356,000 in annual revenue for the Ridgedale Local School District.

The agreement between the county and Marion County Solar Project LLC calls for the company to pay $1 million to the county when construction of the facility begins and $1 million when the facility becomes operational.

Additionally, the agreement requires MCSP to make an annual payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to the county and other applicable tax districts (including Ridgedale Local School District and Marion Township) in the amount of $700,000, under terms of the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority tax exemption. That equates to $7,000 per megawatt.

The solar facility's property is bounded on the west side by POET Biorefining and agricultural land and on the east side by Ohio 423. The southern boundary runs along Marion-Williamsport Road West. The northern side of the property borders more agricultural land.

Pleasant Township residents have been the most vocal opponents of solar and wind energy development, turning out in large numbers over the past five years at meetings where the issue has been discussed. They showed up in force to the public hearing the county commissioners conducted last June to show their support for the resolution restricting development of solar and wind projects.

National Renewable Energy Corporation (NARENCO) is the owner of Chestnut Solar LLC, which is seeking to locate a solar facility in Pleasant Township. According to the Ohio Power Siting Board website, Chestnut Solar is in the pre-application phase. The company's proposed electric generation would be placed on a 404-acre site in eastern Pleasant Township and have a capacity of up to 68 megawatts.

A large group of Pleasant Township residents attended a public meeting Chester Solar LLC held on Dec. 6 at Tri-Rivers Career Center. Residents were largely disappointed with the format of the meeting, which did not include a public question and answer session. Instead, Chester Solar officials directed local residents to submit questions and comments in writing. Company representatives, however, did have small group and individual discussions with residents after making brief opening comments.

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This article originally appeared on Marion Star: Commissioners back Grand Prairie Twp. wind energy limits