Large "utility-scale" solar energy development is on the rise in Ohio. In the past two years, the Ohio Power Siting Board has approved six large scale solar projects with generating capacities of 50MW or more, and three more projects are pending approval. These “solar farms” require a large land base, and in Ohio that land base is predominantly farmland. The nine solar energy facilities noted on this map will cover about 16,500 acres in Brown, Clermont, Hardin, Highland and Vinton counties. About 12,300 of those acres were previously used for agriculture.
With solar energy development, then, comes a new demand for farmland: solar leasing. Many Ohio farmland owners have received post cards and letters about the potential of leasing land to a solar energy developer. This prospect might sound appealing at first, particularly in a difficult farming year like this one. But leasing land for a solar energy development raises many implications for the land, family, farm operation, and community. It's a long-term legal commitment--usually 25 years or more--that requires careful assessment and a bit of homework.
To help landowners who are considering solar leasing, we've joined forces with Eric Romich, OSU Extension's Field Specialist in Energy Education, to publish the Farmland Owner's Guide to Solar Leasing. The online guide explains the state of solar energy development in Ohio, reviews initial considerations for leasing farmland to solar, and describes legal documents and common terms used for solar leasing. The guide's solar leasing checklist organizes the information into a list of issues to consider, things to do, people to consult, and questions to ask before deciding whether to enter into a solar lease.
The Farmland Owner's Guide to Solar Leasing is available at no cost on our Farm Office website, here. A separate Law Bulletin of The Farmland Owner's Solar Leasing Checklist is also available on Farm Office, here. We produced the guide in partnership with the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas, with funding from the National Agricultural Library, Agricultual Research Service, at the United States Department of Agriculture.
Many landowners across the state have been contacted by solar energy developers interested in leasing farmland for utility-scale solar energy production. The combination of improved technology, reduced production costs, the phase-out of federal tax credits, and the willingness of landowners to enter into long-term leases have made 2019 a sunny year for entering into solar leases.
The sudden surge of solar leasing has led to new questions about what this type of lease mean for a landowner, a community, and the future. As these leases may last for 30 years or more, it is important to understand what a utility-scale solar energy development looks like, along with the terms in a solar lease and the implications of signing.
Join OSU Extension Field Specialists Peggy Kirk Hall and Eric Romich on Monday, July 15th for a conversation on solar leasing. Together, the presenters will address solar development trends, converting farmland to solar production, and key considerations to weigh before signing a solar lease. Those interested may choose between one of two sessions:
- Morning session: Madison County from 9:00am to noon at the Red Brick Tavern (1700 Cumberland Road/Route 40, London, Ohio). Breakfast will be provided!
- Afternoon session: Greene County from 2:00pm to 5:00pm at the Greene County Extension office (100 Fairground Road, Xenia, Ohio).
Each meeting will cover the same information. Registration is required, but there is no cost to attend. To register for the morning session in Madison County, email Griffith.email@example.com or call 740-852-0975. To register for the afternoon session in Greene County, email Corboy.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 937-372-9971.
Click HERE to view the official flier. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about some of the documents and major considerations that will be discussed at the meeting, click HERE. If you want to learn more about some common solar lease terms, click HERE.
Here’s our gathering of recent agricultural law news you may want to know:
- The Ohio Department of Agriculture will hold a hearing on April 5, 2018 at 9 a.m. to receive testimony on proposed amendments to the Agricultural Pollution Abatement Program. The amendments are largely alterations of the format and structure of the rule to allow for easier reading, and do not impact the substance of the rule in many situations. Two changes to the substance of the rules is the addition of a duty to prevent pollution from “residual farm products,” which means bedding, wash waters, waste feed, silage drainage and some mortality composting, and clarification of the investigation and enforcement process. Read the ODA’s summary of the changes here. Hearing information is here.
- Considering solar leasing on your farm? If so, sit in on the Solar Leasing for Agricultural Landowners webinar on April 4 at Noon. The free webinar features our colleague Prof. Shannon Ferrell of Oklahoma State, who will remove some of the mystery of solar leasing for landowners. More information is here.
- Several groups have filed a lawsuit against the USDA for its March 12 withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule finalized during President Obama’s tenure. The rule would have established animal welfare standards for organic producers. Read more about the organizations’ claims in this post by our Ag & Food Law Consortium partner, the National Sea Grant Law Center.
- Another Consortium partner of ours, Penn State Law, has prepared a comprehensive summary of the current status and legal developments for the problematic Rover Pipeline that is affecting many landowners in Ohio and other states. The summary is here.
- Ohio legislative activity:
- The Apiary Immunity bill, H.B. 392, passed the Ohio House on March 21 and was introduced in the Ohio Senate on March 26. The bill proposes limited liability for registered apiary owners.
- Rep. Fedor (D-Toledo) and Rep. Sheehy (D-Toledo) introduced HCR 25, a resolution encouraging the U.S. EPA Administrator to declare the open waters of Western Lake Erie as impaired, consistent with the Ohio EPA’s recent water quality report we reported on earlier this week.