Owners near the statewide transmission lines are accepting land lease quotations from renewable energy companies. The largest solar panel farm is hidden in a rural community on the outskirts of Cincinnati, in Mount Orab, where nearly 660,000 solar panels cover the former farmland.
“We have five sections on 1,500 acres of land,” said Bill Belin, Director of Renewable Energy Development at Innergex. Behling said: “They are making a decision to continue farming, how much they earn on the farm, and many of them see this as an opportunity to keep the farm in the family.”
Its Hillcrest solar power plant started construction in 2019 and was completed in July. It generates 200 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 39,000 local homes.
Behling said that the technology has made progress in the past decade, making solar energy about 90% cheaper than it is now. Investment in solar panels is even as far as northeastern Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
“This is not just a fashion, but a long-term trend,” said Dale Arnold, director of energy and utilities at the Ohio Department of Agriculture. In fact, the Ohio Power Site Selection Committee has nearly 50 large utility-scale solar projects under consideration.
Arnold estimates that when it comes to solar projects, about half of the available connections for transmission lines have been mentioned or are under consideration.
Ohio Senate Bill 52 may hinder the advancement of any new projects. The bill gives the county commissioner or the government the power to establish solar panel development zones or ban solar and wind turbine projects.
“Even in the evaluation of Senate Bill 52, there are many projects involved that are not subject to SB 52,” Arnold said. From smaller facilities to huge solar farms, energy companies are betting on Ohio to become the next solar center.