CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Renewable energy's struggle to grow in Ohio is expected to resume this fall following years of political battles over state energy mandates.
Legislation amending how close a wind turbine can be to adjacent property not part of a wind farm is planned by Republican state senator Cliff Hite of Findlay.
Senator Matt Dolan of Chagrin Falls said Thursday he would be a co-sponsor.
Wind farm development abruptly stopped in 2014 when Republicans then controlling the Senate, without debate, slipped language into the final version of a budget bill nearly tripling the distance a wind turbine could be from adjacent property not part of a wind farm.
Hite in June proposed new language for the budget bill that would have based turbine set back on the height of a turbine and the length of its blades. The language disappeared in final House and Senate negotiations.
Dolan said he thinks the wind turbine setback issue along with years of arguing about the state's renewable energy mandates -- which were approved in 2008 -- has made Ohio unattractive to renewable energy developers.
"If you invest $100's of millions of dollars in 2017 and 2018, [you need to know] the rug is not going to be pulled out from under you in 2021. That's the message we have to send," Dolan said during an energy roundtable discussion sponsored by the Great Lakes Brewing Co. and the Advanced Energy Economy Institute.
He said the "clarity of our direction" is more important to the industry than what percentage of power sold in Ohio should be generated by wind and solar technologies.
Currently, the state requires that by the end of 2027 power produced by renewable technologies account for 12.5 percent of all power sold in the state.
Lawmakers also in 2014 tried to eliminate the mandates, but under threat of a veto from Gov. John Kasich, decided to "freeze" them for two years while they studied the issue. In 2016, the same GOP leaders managed to pass a proposal making the standards voluntary for another two years -- a bill which Kasich then vetoed.
"Ohio will be behind [in coming decades]," said Dolan. "The next generation of CEOs will ask, 'Where is our energy coming from?' Is it the most efficient? Is it reducing our carbon footprint? That will be a decision that Ohio will be behind on if we don't act quickly."
Rep. Kent Smith, a Euclid Democrat, summed up the situation: "Public policy is the interests of today versus the interests of tomorrow. We could be winning on the economy of today and the economy of tomorrow if we would just unshackle renewable energy in Ohio."
The Great Lakes Brewing Co. sponsored the symposium as part of its corporate commitment to sustainability and sustainable business practices.
Saul Kliorys, the company's sustainability manager, said Great Lakes installed a 20-kilowatt (20,000 watt) solar array on the brewery's roof last fall.
The array generates about 1 percent of the brewery's electric consumption, enough electricity to produce about 16,000 cases of beer a year.
The array will pay for itself in seven or eight years, he said.
Great Lakes previously installed solar thermal panels on the roof of its brewpub. The panels capture heat from the sun, which the company uses to pre-heat water before it becomes beer. Kliorys said the thermal panels produce enough heat to save the amount of gas used annually by two average Cleveland homes.