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Ohio bill would suspend issuance of certain wind, solar certifications

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Ohio bill would suspend issuance of certain wind, solar certifications

A Republican state legislator in Ohio has introduced a bill that aims to block the development of new utility-scale wind or solar facilities for three years.

House Bill 786 would disallow the Ohio Power Siting Board from issuing certificates to "any major utility facility," which the state of Ohio defines as one that generates at least 50 MW, to be powered by solar or wind. Additionally, the bill would suspend the issuance of certificates for "any economically significant wind farm," defined by the state as one that generates between 5 MW and 50 MW of electricity.

The one-page bill, which was introduced by Rep. Todd Smith and cosponsored by fellow Republican Reps. Don Jones and Dick Stein, said the issuance of certificates could resume either after three years or upon the passage of any state law "that provides additional directives and guidance to the board regarding the certification" of such power generation sites, whichever comes first.

The new legislation comes roughly a year after the controversial H.B. 6 was signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. The passing of that bill, which has since led to allegations of bribery and corruption that have upended the Ohio energy industry, provided significant financial support to the state's coal and nuclear power plants.

Critics of H.B. 786 include Democratic state Rep. Casey Weinstein, who in an emailed statement cited Ohio's history of "being at the forefront of technological innovation."

"To introduce a moratorium on wind and solar energy spits in the face of that tradition and makes us out to be Luddites," he said. "With a recent history of job growth that trails the national average, we cannot afford to shut off access to fast-growing, 21st-century job opportunities in the renewable energy sector."

If passed, H.B. 786 would have major implications for some large planned projects that have yet to receive certification from the board, such as Invenergy LLC's up-to-300-MW solar farm in Ohio's southwestern Clinton County. Referred to as the Yellow Wood Solar Energy Center, a project website notes that the facility currently is going through the Ohio Power Siting Board permitting process.

The developer expects to construct the facility between 2022 and 2023 and is aiming to begin operations in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to a project fact sheet. Invenergy estimates that in addition to up to four full-time jobs, the project would bring $4.5 million to the county "through new taxes and landowners' payments over the life of the project."

The Chicago-based company also has several other projects in its development pipeline in the Buckeye State, including the 250-MW Pleasant Prairie Solar Energy Center in Franklin County and the 125-MW Vinton Solar Energy Facility in Vinton County, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence data.

Josh Hreha and Ryan Van Portfliet, who are listed as Yellow Wood's renewable development managers, did not immediately return requests for comment regarding H.B.786's implications for their project.

The bill, introduced Nov. 12, was referred to The Ohio House of Representatives' Commerce and Labor Committee on Nov. 17.