Benefits of solar energy in Ohio


The solar industry in Ohio is creating a clean energy economy which is attracting substantial job and revenue-generating opportunities to the state. Solar developers are conscientiously working to meet the rapidly accelerating demand for clean energy, uniquely positioning Ohio for growth opportunities for decades to come from the energy revolution underway.

As government entities and local stakeholders work side-by-side with developers on projects, we understand there are a wide variety of questions regarding the utility-solar industry. The Utility Scale Solar Energy Coalition (USSEC) and our members want to serve as a resource and provide accurate information and assistance.

The growth of solar is being driven by incredible clean energy demand by businesses and declines in the cost of solar generation. Ohio has ideal conditions to develop utility scale solar. The state has an abundance of flat land and a sophisticated transmission network which are both required to build solar farms.

Utility-scale projects must be located near transmission lines capable of handling the increased electricity produced by solar farms. That’s why you’ll see these projects are primarily located near transmission lines.

Ohio also has enough sunny weather to make this form of energy generation a viable and excellent addition to our electrical system for use by citizens and businesses alike.

The state currently ranks seventh in the nation in solar energy jobs, with more than 7,200 Ohioans working in the industry. That figure is expected to grow. A 2020 Ohio University study estimates that over the 40-year lifespan of the projects currently proposed, the solar industry will have an $18 billion economic impact with more than 54,000 construction jobs and $67 million in annual tax revenue. Communities in rural parts of the state stand to gain the most from solar development according to the study.

Ohio is also proud to have First Solar — the largest solar manufacturer in the U.S., and one of the largest in the world. Started in 1999, First Solar has had a manufacturing presence in Ohio since 2002, starting with 150 employees. Since then, the company has invested more than $2 billion in expanding its Ohio manufacturing presence, making the state home to the largest photovoltaic solar manufacturing footprint in the Western Hemisphere when it commissioned its second factory in 2019.

The company recently broke ground on its third manufacturing facility, which will create an additional 700 permanent jobs.

That investment proves Ohio is a solar powerhouse that will continue to benefit our state, including those townships and municipalities struggling from reduced tax revenues, pandemic slow-downs and cuts in local government support that have accumulated over the years.

Farmland is plentiful in Ohio and is often well-suited for building cost-competitive, utility-scale solar farms. In addition, solar is beneficial for Ohio farmers with up-front and annual payments that are usually three-to-five times greater than the income earned from traditional crops. Solar leases provide rural farmers revenue stability and confidence in ownership.

Ohio’s solar fields will utilize farming and grazing practices that help rebuild the soil’s organic matter. Shepherds across the state are excited about new opportunities as their sheep flocks are contracted to graze the solar fields. Many solar farms will also become pollinators with the use of low-impact, deep-rooted native plants, helping the soil and our endangered bee and butterfly populations.

One key question USSEC members are often asked about is the decommissioning process. As members of the community for 30 to 40 years, the solar farms want to assure their neighbors they will leave the land in the same if not better condition.

As part of the approval process, the Ohio Power Siting Board requires the submission of a decommission plan that the includes the anticipated life of the project, cost estimates and physical plans for the farms decommission and a bond to cover the costs. The bond is held by the Treasurer of the State of Ohio and the plans are required to be updated every five years by a professional engineer. Additionally, it is now state law that a fully funded decommissioning plan be developed by professional engineers for every project.

Project financing also directly benefits local communities. Ohio’s Payment In Lieu of Taxes or PILOT program sends revenue directly to the local community. This program ranges in payments from $7,000 to $9,000 per megawatt per year for as many as 40 years.

As part of the PILOT agreements, solar farms will have Road Use Management Agreements that guarantee the repair of roads, bridges and culverts affected by construction of the project. There is very little traffic on the farm once it is in operation. Developers also understand the importance of drainage tile. They want to protect their investment and will mitigate any damage and repair damaged tile.

PILOT agreements also provide training for local first responders and require developers to establish a relationship with an Ohio college, vocational school, or apprenticeship program to help develop the local workforce. From electricians to welders, these programs will help fill the growing need for a skilled workforce.

Utility-scale solar can and should be part of a prosperity plan for our state, our businesses, our communities, our schools, and our farming community. In the years to come, we will have effectively transitioned from a fossil fuel giant to a clean energy giant.

USSEC’s members want to develop and maintain strong relationships with the frontline stakeholders and leaders in the communities they are joining. We urge you to contact our members with any questions you may have about their projects. You can also learn more about utility-scale solar in Ohio at

Jason M. Rafeld
Executive Director
USSEC of Ohio

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