Highland County business and community leaders, as well as interested residents, are invited to attend a special utility scale solar energy issues briefing, sponsored by the Highland & Brown County Farm Bureau at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8 the Southern State Community College South Campus, 351 Brooks-Malott Road, Mt. Orab.
The program will be facilitated by Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) Director for Energy, Utility and Local Government Issues Dale Arnold.
“Advances in solar technology have made megawatt production facilities possible. Utilities and energy service providers are interested in large scale solar developments,” Arnold said. “These projects will impact individual landowners and communities.”
During the briefing Arnold will discuss energy market trends, construction guidelines, remediation standards and regulatory agencies governing this type of energy development. Issues concerning eminent domain and farmland preservation will be explored, as well as what landowners should consider in negotiating effective long-term lease agreements.
“Representatives from several energy service companies are contacting residents in the region and many folks have questions and concerns,” said Chris Rogers, Brown County Farm Bureau president. “We understand that representatives are requesting to work with landowners to conduct preliminary surveys, environmental evaluations and placement of solar energy generation equipment on farm ground.”
Many installers will need to work with neighboring residents to accommodate transmission lines, sub stations and interconnection facilities. Construction could mean the need to create effective Road Use Maintenance Agreements (RUMAs) with county and township governments. Many community stakeholders want to know more about power siting, taxes and other regulatory rules concerning utility scale solar facilities in the neighborhood.
If asked to sign complex agreements and associated paperwork, landowners have the right to have their legal counsel examine all materials. “Take your time. Many projects are still working through their development process,” Arnold said. “”Farmers are realizing that many aspects of this type of energy development are not boilerplate, but highly negotiable.”
Arnold has been involved in energy and utility related issues since 1995. He represents farm and rural residential energy consumers on a variety of government working groups and public utility advisory boards concerning energy development. He has extensive experience working with county Farm Bureaus and local residents, helping communities evaluate generation projects, electric transmission lines and pipeline infrastructure.
The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization, encompassing 86 county Farm Bureau organizations and over 175,000 member families statewide. Highland & Brown County Farm Bureau leaders are active on state and local action teams working on legislation, regulations and issues that impact agriculture and its relationship with rural, suburban and urban communities.
Submitted by Rudi Perry, financial officer.