Guest column/It’s time for Ohio to embrace solar energy – The Steubenville Herald-Star
May 13, 2022
My husband and I had an 8.4-kilowatt solar system installed on our garage roof in 2017. We were able to get the 30 percent federal tax credit offered at that time. We have never regretted that decision, especially when we see our power bills.
Many are under the misconception that Ohio, being a northern state, would not be a good state for solar power. The Solar Energy Institute Association ranked the top states across the country based on the total amount of solar electric capacity installed and in operation as of the end of the first quarter of 2021 and found that, not surprisingly, California and Texas topped the list, but there also were northern states like New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York in the top 10.
Sadly, if we look at new solar installations, Ohio ranks 23rd. However, our neighbors are embracing solar. Michigan ranks sixth, and Indiana ranks fourth. Research shows that although sunlight and land space factor into solar installations, major facets driving new solar installations in many states are policies and economics.
Indiana has a solar easement law that allows a person to work with neighbors to get the best location and maximum sunlight for solar panels. It also prevents local authorities such as planning and zoning officials from preventing you from installing a solar panel in your home. The state also exempts all solar components from state sales taxes and excludes solar systems from property taxes. Michigan also exempts solar from property taxes.
Let’s face it, Ohio has not been friendly to renewable energy in the past decade. In 2014, Ohio lawmakers froze energy efficiency standards and the requirement for more renewable energy for the state for two years. The infamous SB6 law “guts renewable energy standards while subsidizing nuclear and coal bailouts.” In the fall of 2020, Republican Don Jones of Harrison County co-sponsored HB 786, a bill that targets utility-scale solar that “would prevent regulators from certifying any new solar or wind facility designed to produce more than 50 megawatts of electricity.”
Steve Crum, a representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, spoke out against the bill saying that solar installations would provide thousands of jobs for workers, especially those located in rural areas. Jane Harf, executive director of Green Energy Ohio, said, “There has been considerable testimony to the benefits that have come to many rural communities in Ohio from the presence of large-scale projects that support local infrastructure, school systems, and businesses. This bill has no merit and once again puts Ohio on a clear path backward while neighboring states are embracing the future.”
In July 2021, Ohio’s legislature passed SB 52. The bill revised Ohio’s power siting approval for utility-scale solar and wind by requiring approval from county commissioners prior to state approval by the Ohio Power Siting Board. The bill’s intention was to target renewable energy since the state allows almost no local government input on siting for fracked gas operations.
For consumers thinking about residential solar power, lawmakers have proposed several new bills in Ohio’s General Assembly that would help Ohioans. OHB 450 would help small groups who cannot afford to purchase solar as individuals to instead purchase solar as a community. OHB 429, also called the energy jobs and justice act, takes a holistic view of what we need to do to have an equitable clean energy future. OSB 61 ensures access to rooftop solar for people in condo associations and homeowners associations.
Economically speaking, renewable energy just makes sense. In their 2020 World Energy Outlook Report, the International Energy Agency stated that “solar is now the cheapest electricity in history.” This is mainly due to a decline in the costs of solar panels. The International Renewable Energy Agency said in their Renewable Power Generation Costs for 2020 report that, “Costs for electricity from utility-scale solar photovoltaics fell 85 percent between 2010 and 2020.”
At the time we purchased our solar panels, we had to get them from outside Ohio. In 2011, Ohio was second in the nation for solar panel production, beating out solar states like California. Companies in Ohio that produced solar included Xunlight Corp. and First Solar Inc. Xunlight filed for bankruptcy in 2016, however, First Solar announced in March that it is investing $680 million to expand the Perrysburg site. After the expansion, the facility will be the largest in the world outside mainland China and will add 500 construction jobs and 700 full-time jobs to operate the facility.
Some renewable energy opponents are portraying solar in a bad light, claiming they are toxic and will end up in landfills. A solar panel is about 75 percent glass, a material that is readily recyclable. Other components such as the aluminum frame, copper wire and plastic junction box are easily recycled. The EPA notes that recycling solar panels saves space in landfills, helps recover valuable materials and provides jobs. Panels can be refurbished to be used in electric car and bike charging stations.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Ohio Power Siting Board will hold a public meeting regarding the Nottingham Solar LLC proposal to construct a 100-megawatt solar farm on a reclaimed coal surface mine site. The meeting will take place in New Athens at the volunteer fire department. Individuals are encouraged to provide testimony about the proposed project. It will provide a long-term economic benefit to Cadiz and Athens Township — in part from increased tax revenues and employment opportunities.
Ohio, we have a long way to go. The 2019 statistics report the percentage of the state’s electricity from solar was a dismal 0.3 percent. There were 307 solar companies and 7,282 solar jobs in Ohio as of 2019. Solar energy was the U.S. energy industry’s fastest growing sector in 2020. Let the OPSB know you support clean, green energy in Ohio.
(Pokladnik, a resident of Uhrichsville, holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, master’s and doctorates in environmental studies and is certified in hazardous materials regulations.)
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May 13, 2022 at 08:12AM