By Peggy Kirk Hall, director of agricultural law, Ohio State University Agricultural and Resource Law Program
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. Nine new Ohio solar energy facilities 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 at https://farmoffice.osu.edu/sites/aglaw/files/site-library/Farmland_Owner%27s_Guide_to_Solar_Leasing.pdf 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.
A separate Law Bulletin of The Farmland Owner’s Solar Leasing Checklist is also available at https://farmoffice.osu.edu/sites/aglaw/files/site-library/The_Farmland_Owner%27s_Solar_Leasing_Checklist.pdf.We produced the guide in partnership with the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas, with funding from the National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, at the United States Department of Agriculture.