Clean Energy

Solar

Ohio is a great place for solar, but we can go BIGGER!

Solar is taking off across the state of Ohio because individuals and businesses care about clean energy and reducing their electric bills. The cost of solar has fallen dramatically over the last several years (47% over last 5 years in Ohio!), leading to a rapid increase in solar installations in Ohio. While Ohio allows solar projects of all sizes to be built, some thoughtful changes to our state policy could significantly improve the business environment for solar to really take off across Ohio.

Not only is solar good for our environment by reducing Ohio’s reliance on coal-fired power, solar means jobs. Clean energy is providing good paying jobs to citizens all over our state. In fact, the occupation of solar installer was the fastest growing job nationwide in 2017, and there are over 6,500 jobs in the solar industry in Ohio. With only 0.22% of the state’s energy generation coming from solar, the opportunity for growing Ohio’s solar industry–meaning more good paying clean energy jobs–is huge. Check out some of the amazing Ohio businesses who are already working in this burgeoning industry:

How much solar is in Ohio, and how much bigger can we go?

As of September 2018, Ohio had 182.13 megawatts of solar installed, which means we are getting just 0.22% of our electricity from solar. Framed another way, Ohio is ranked 28th in the nation for solar, despite being the 7th largest state in terms of population. With the right policies and ensuring Ohio has updated, modern electric grid, there is no limit to how much solar we could support in Ohio, and we definitely have a long way to go with just 0.22% of our energy coming from solar.

Where is solar in Ohio?

Everywhere! Seriously. Check out this great map put together by the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) showing notable solar installations across the state of Ohio, as well as a map of solar manufacturers, installers, and other companies in Ohio’s solar industry here.

Smaller solar systems installed on rooftops and in homeowners’ yards is by far the largest share of existing solar capacity in Ohio at 104 Megawatts installed, and there is potential for this market to grow up to 950 Megawatts. If you are interested in installing your own solar system, organizations like our friends at Solar United Neighbors of Ohio assist individual homeowners, allowing them to team up and buy their solar systems in bulk which reduces costs and can get more members of your community excited about locally-produced clean energy.

Because solar projects pack a punch when it comes to improving air quality, and creating new local economic development opportunities, new tax revenue and new jobs, municipalities and mayors are going full speed ahead on solar. Below are a couple of great projects that have happened in Ohio thanks to innovative ideas and partnerships with municipalities who understand that going solar is the best choice for their communities.

Village of Minster

The Village of Minster installed a unique municipal solar and energy storage project–the first of its kind–in 2015.  The project is comprised of a 4.2MW solar facility co-located with a 7MW battery storage facility, which made it one of the largest solar installations in Ohio at the time, and the first to combine energy storage on this type of scale. The system helps the Village  of Minster manage their energy during times of peak demand while also providing an option for reliable back up power. You can read more about the project through the links below.

https://www.utilitydive.com/news/inside-the-first-municipal-solar-plus-storage-project-in-the-us/421470/

https://www.bricker.com/people/dylan-borchers/insights-resources/publications/first-of-its-kind-municipal-solar-and-storage-project-under-construction-in-minster-ohio

Brooklyn Landfill Array

In another first for Ohio, the City of Brooklyn recently installed a 4MW solar installation on 17 acres of an old retired  landfill in Cuyahoga County, making productive use of an otherwise used plot of land. The power generated from the project was purchased by Cleveland Public Power, a publicly-owned utility in Cleveland.  We hope this innovative project is just the first of many landfills repurposed to support our need for clean energy in Ohio!

https://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2018/09/power_is_now_flowing_from_broo.html

What’s next for Ohio?

AEP Ohio Takes a Bold Step Toward More Clean Energy in Ohio

Following through with their commitment to develop 900 megawatts of renewable energy as part of a 2016 settlement agreement related to coal bailouts, AEP Ohio filed a set of cases in late 2018 to pursue 400 megawatts of the commitment with two solar projects. The projects proposed are the Highland Solar Project (300 MW) and Willowbrook Solar (100 MW), both in southern Ohio’s Highland County. If built, these projects will significantly increase Ohio’s utility-scale solar capacity. Ohio currently only has approximately 67 MW of installed large-scale solar arrays.  

In its filings, AEP Ohio cites incredible economic benefits these projects could bring, including increases of:

  • 3,900 new direct (mostly during construction), indirect, and induced jobs;
  • $250+ million in Ohio workers’ earnings;
  • $700+ million in economic output;
  • $400+ million in Ohio’s GDP; and
  • 113 additional full-time, permanent, jobs guaranteed as part of the Highland Solar contractual arrangement related to solar manufacturing, installation, and servicing.

The OEC has intervened in the cases at the PUCO, so we will keep you updated on the progress made on these projects. AEP Ohio must demonstrate the need for these new solar projects in Ohio, and will then have to convince the PUCO to approve a cost recovery mechanism for financing the projects. So while Ohioans should be excited about the possibility of so much new renewable energy coming online in our state, the road to approval of the projects by the PUCO is just beginning–so stay tuned for opportunities to voice your support for more renewable energy in Ohio!

Policies Enabling and Encouraging Solar

Net metering

Ohio has decent net metering rules that support self-generating customers’ ability to receive credit for electricity they supply back onto the local grid, but unfortunately they are outdated and not on pace with market trends. For more information about net metering in Ohio, check out the full scoop on our net metering page.

Energy Choice

Ohio is an energy choice state–meaning you and businesses throughout Ohio can decide who supplies energy to your home or business.  Ohioans can shop for their energy, making choices that work for them–whether that’s the cheapest source of energy or to go solar! Larger companies often do this through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), which allows them to contract with an energy supplier for multiple years, guaranteeing the type of energy their business is powered with and giving them a stable and known rate for their energy costs years down the road. For more information, check out the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s website.

Barriers to Deployment

Artificial Restrictions — Zoning and Homeowners’ Associations

Unfortunately, artificial barriers like restrictive zoning or HOAs that ban residents from placing solar panels on their rooftops or as ground-mounted systems can stop people from exercising their ability to generate their own clean energy with solar. Recently, a bill (HB 774) was introduced in the Ohio House which would ban condominium, homeowners, and neighborhood associations from imposing unreasonable limitations on the installation of rooftop solar to ensure all Ohioans have the right and ability to install solar on their homes, and you can be sure OEC is keeping an eye on this legislation!

Weak RPS

In 2008, the Ohio General Assembly established the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for Ohio’s investor-owned distribution utilities and any competitive electric supplier in the state. Unfortunately, our RPS is rather weak.  The standard requires these sellers of electricity to ensure that a certain percentage of their portfolio to be sourced from renewable resources, but the percentage is fairly low at 12.5%. Despite being temporarily “frozen” for two years (2014-2016), Ohio’s RPS resumed functioning in 2017.  The RPS includes a separate set of benchmarks were established for solar power, called the “solar carve out,” given its unique marketplace, but strengthening this requirement would help solar really take off in Ohio. You can learn more about the RPS on OEC’s Renewable Energy page.

Utility Resistance

While Ohio utilities are beginning to warm up to renewable energy and even proposing large-scale projects like AEP Ohio’s 900MW, it is still a struggle to shift the antiquated business model of our electric distribution utilities to a 21st century model. Our energy system long relied on centralized power plants with miles and miles of transmission line to disperse energy to all parts of the state. Distributed energy systems, like solar, are shaking up the traditional utility business model and requires forward-thinking policies and improvements to the grid to ensure we have reliable energy to depend on. The OEC tirelessly works to improve the utility business model through casework at the Public Utilities Commission to ensure we have a cleaner grid going into the future.