Everyone Wins with Solar
Utility-scale solar farms contribute massive infusions of revenue into the communities where solar farms are located. Most projects make substantial and long-term annual payments directly to the communities where they are located per Ohio’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program.
These tax payments are especially helpful to economically challenged communities in rural areas of the state.
Projects underway or planned are expected to generate $2.8 billion over 40 years for counties, schools and critical community services.
Farmers and Landowners
Long-term solar installation leases are lucrative and bring other steady revenue to landowners and families.
Developers often pay an up-front bonus in addition to annual payments from stable, long-term leases that are usually three to five times greater than the income earned from traditional crops. Commodity prices of crops rise and fall creating uncertainty for farmers. Many Ohio farm families face tough decisions about land use. Future generations may be unable to continue operations because of commodity price fluctuations or “bad years”. Solar leases provide rural families revenue, stability, and confidence to retain ownership for generations to come, allowing farms to remain in the family.
In addition, drain tile and stormwater management are two key factors in the development, construction, and operation of solar farms. Developers are required to quickly repair or replace any drain tile that is damaged during the construction process and work with the Ohio EPA to make sure robust stormwater systems are in place. Proper drainage is critical to every farm, including solar farms, so developers want to make sure it is done well and done right.
The majority of landowners in solar projects are farmers who see solar as a conservation tool and a long-term investment. They care about their land and want to do what is right for their family, business, and community.
Additionally, solar installations are low-maintenance and allow farms to remain farms — free from more permanent development such as dense housing or industrial/commercial complexes and avoid the population growth, noise, traffic and other impact that come with them, including impact to infrastructure, schools, traffic and public services, etc.
The comprehensive Ohio Power Siting Board process, as with the solar developers themselves, is especially sensitive to the impacts of new power generation facilities to local communities. Solar farms are members of the communities where they are located and strive to be good neighbors.
Our neighbors will experience some disruption during the construction period of 12-18 months, in the form of increased traffic, building activity and some noise during hours permitted by the community. Developers also are required to enter into Road Use and Maintenance Agreements if there are any repairs or maintenance required as a result of construction.
Solar farms are often screened from sight with professional landscaping and vegetative screening including trees and large shrubs, minimizing the visual impacts to neighbors. Solar panels have a low profile (average height of 10-12 feet) and feature setbacks, as required by the Ohio Power Siting Board approval process and other required approvals to mitigate any visual impacts to neighbors.
Once the projects are operational, solar farms are low impact and visually unobtrusive compared to other power generation, and residential, commercial, or industrial development.
There is minimal traffic, little to no lighting, and the projects are essentially silent. Some of the equipment makes a low humming noise that wouldn’t be heard given the setbacks. They don’t operate at night.
Strong Community Partnerships
Solar developers also find creative ways to work with communities including payments to adjoining landowners, community benefit funds, residential solar programs, pollinator-friendly habitats, wetland protections, natural screening with shrubs and trees, farm-style fencing and generous setbacks.
Solar developers work hard to be accessible and accountable to the communities where projects are located.
Ohio gives counties the option to offer energy projects a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) program. Under the PILOT statue, developers pay the county a fixed annual amount per megawatt in lieu of real and personal property tax. Solar developers pay $7,000 per megawatt. County commissioners may negotiate additional payments, not to be more than $9,000 per megawatt in total.
The PILOT tax revenue goes directly to the local community.
Solar developers utilizing a PILOT program must also:
- Repair roads, bridges and culverts affected by construction.
- Provide training for emergency personnel responding to emergencies related to the project and provide them proper equipment.
- Establish a relationship with an institution of higher ed to educate and train individuals for careers in the solar energy industry.
PILOT programs also require that 80% of the employees on these projects are Ohio residents.