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October 2009
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Special Improvement Districts for Solar Energy

Ohio House Bill 1 signed this summer allows Ohio municipalities and townships to create special financing districts that would help finance solar energy installations. The bill takes effect October 15, 2009. It allows a special improvement district (SID) to be created within a municipality to help homes and businesses finance the installation of solar photovoltaic and solar thermal systems, including roof top and ground solar arrays and solar water heaters. A solar energy SID is unlike a traditional SID in that property can be from different parts of the city or township and does not have to be contiguous. Also, a solar energy SID requires the consent of 100 percent of the property owners who will be assessed but a property owner who does not want to participate cannot be forced to.

Carol Contrada, vice chair of Sylvania Township trustees, said that the bill is an example of state legislation helping local governments. She said, “People want to do the right thing and move toward energy independence, but the initial investment is huge. This is a way for government to support renewable energy without taxpayer cost.”

Ken Fallows, chair of the Environmental Subcommittee of the Toledo-Lucas County Sustainability Commission, said that the program is “a good deal, especially for northwest Ohio. We are manufacturing these products here and we can also be a center for marketing and implementation of the technology.”

A solar energy system will immediately reduce reliance on electric utilities for a home or business that installs one, but the initial expense is significant. How soon the system pays for itself depends on many factors: size of the solar array, local incentives and rebates, as well as financing. Elected officials and administrators who are interested in learning more about the solar energy SID can contact TMACOG’s Kurt Erichsen: kurt@tmacog.org, or 419.241.9155 ext. 126. If there is interest from members, TMACOG could facilitate a workshop to share more information about the environmental impact of solar systems, the costs, and how to set up the solar energy SID.

A summary of the bill and information on establishing the solar energy SID has been provided by the law firm of Bricker & Eckler. The actual bill is here.

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