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Wind farm in field
Wind Farm Wind turbines above The Nature Conservancy's Hole In The Mountain Prairie near Lake Benton, Minnesota. © Richard Hamilton Smith

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New Research Study Gauges Appetite for Renewable Energy in Ohio

A cross-section of Ohio geographic areas suggest renewable energy is being considered at multiple levels of government and community planning.

A research study led by The Great Plains Institute and conducted by Gilbert Michaud, Ph.D., assistant professor at Loyola University, was recently completed to identify openness to renewable energy projects throughout Ohio. The research team reviewed statewide land use policies for Ohio’s townships, cities, counties, regional planning commissions and port authorities. They also looked at Ohio’s largest employers and their stated commitments to renewable energy, among other climate goals.

According to Dr. Michaud, “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first and most comprehensive look at jurisdictional-level policies, as well as organizational and business commitments to renewables, across Ohio. We need to develop smarter pathways to decarbonize our grid, including how and where to site large renewable energy projects, and this study is a useful step in understanding the magnitude and location of these public and private drivers. Government officials, regional planners, and many other stakeholders can benefit from this work.”

The project was designed and commissioned by The Nature Conservancy as they work to develop smart siting solutions for renewable energy in places that avoid impacts to wildlife and habitat and have community support.

“What we learned is that many Ohio communities and businesses see a future that includes renewable energy sources,” said Tracy Freeman, director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. “It is no secret that we are disappointed with recent policies that have been passed in Ohio favoring higher carbon energy sources over renewables. Moreover, the House Bill 6 scandal has created a cascade of negative rhetoric, both within and from outside of Ohio, suggesting that our state is not receptive to clean energy sources. We hope that state leadership will view this data as a chance to move forward with policies that incentivize and promote a clean and secure energy future for everyone through the responsible use of wind and solar energy.”

Some of the most promising results from the research study include:

  • Several Ohio cities, including those with the largest population, have renewable energy or greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions goals. Of the cities with renewable energy goals, the average target is 72% by 2027.
  • Nearly 70% of Ohio’s regional planning commissions have publicly noted an interest in renewable energy or environmental sustainability plans.
  • Over 33% of the municipalities reviewed allow utility-scale solar or wind energy generation as a land use.
  • Nearly 25% of Ohio’s townships expressly allow some form of utility-scale renewable energy (solar or wind) generation as a land use.
  • Approximately 14% of Ohio’s counties have zoning codes that allow utility-scale solar or wind energy generation as a land use.

Furthermore, the researchers looked at Ohio’s largest employers that have some form of renewable energy, GHG, or carbon emission reductions goals. The results show these entities, which include corporations and non-governmental organizations, have an average target of utilizing 80% renewable energy sources, with many listing the year 2025 or 2030 to meet these goals.

“We know that meeting these goals will require a dramatic increase in renewable energy generation,” says Bill Stanley, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. “Ohio can be part of the transition to a healthier future and we are glad to see action taken locally, regionally and by private entities to encourage and support the adoption of renewable energy.”

Increasing support for the use of renewable energy is indeed widespread—as evidenced, in part, by the growing list of communities joining Power a Clean Future Ohio and the growth in clean energy-related jobs. According to a recent report by Clean Jobs Midwest, before the economic downturn related to COVID, 114,000 Ohioans were employed by a clean energy company. In 2019, clean energy jobs grew more than four times as fast as statewide employment and added 1,900 new jobs.

“Ohioans recognize the need to reduce carbon emissions, and that renewable energy needs to be part of the solution,” says Freeman. “In addition to cleaner air, carbon reduction also creates exponential savings from reduced health impacts related to pollution. A 2019 study by MIT indicated that Ohio was on track to gain $4.7 billion in health benefits by 2030 under Ohio’s clean energy standards before they were weakened by House Bill 6. We urge the elected leaders in our state to embrace the opportunity for energy innovation, security, and equity. This future prioritizes the smart use of renewable energy and avoids irreversible and potentially devastating environmental and human health impacts.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.