Meade County cornfields projected to sprout solar panels in 2022






CHAD HOBBS

Messenger Staff

As reported in October of last year, two solar farms will soon have homes in Meade County, if approved. One site, located about 4 miles west of Flaherty between Big Springs Road and Stith Valley Road, will be close to 400 acres spread across three different farms. The other site, located along the Highway 79 corridor of Meade and Breckinridge Counties, will be close to 1,500 acres spread across multiple farms from Midway to Irvington. Though the construction of the two solar farms will both be for the purpose of selling energy harvested from the sun, the agendas of the two separate companies which are heading up each project appear to be quite different.

The site outside Flaherty is known as Meade County Solar and is being developed by Community Energy based out of Radnor, PA. This development plans to have an output of 40 megawatts of energy which will be sold exclusively to Big Rivers Electric Corporation. It is projected to produce 91 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year which is equal to 85 percent of the electric consumption for all households in Meade County, according to Community Energy.

The site along the HWY 79 corridor will be known as Green River Solar. It was originally being developed by Oser, but now appears to be under Merino Solar as the “Project Company” which was formed in April of 2020 “as a special purpose entity to own and develop the project” according to paperwork filed in the Clerk’s office. Both companies are under the Orion Renewable Energy Group out of Oakland, CA. This site will be a 200 megawatt facility, but its energy appears to be possibly destined for the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO). NIPSCO filed a petition to the Indian Utility Regulatory Commission on Dec. 23, 2020 for approval to buy 100 percent of the energy generated by what will be known as Green River Solar.

The developers of both sites are working their way through the final requirements and approvals they must complete to begin work on the sites. They both appear to be shooting for construction to begin sometime in 2022 and have the sites online, producing electricity, by late 2022 or early 2023.

So why Meade County? This is a question many citizens have been asking in what has become a controversial topic in some corners of the county. Some like change; some don’t. Some support renewable energy as a necessity to combat climate change. Some see solar panels as an unsustainable, land gobbling tax loophole that can never meet the demands of an energy devouring juggernaut such as the United States. Will they pollute our water table? Will they drive up or drive down property values? Who’s going to ultimately pay for these projects? Will it be passed on to the citizens of Meade County? Will electric rates drop?

There have been many questions raised over these two solar projects. In the coming weeks, this investigative series will provide answers to those questions and many more revolving around the solar panels that will soon be popping up in cornfields around southern and western Meade County. Next week: Is the same company that cost Meade County farmers a grain elevator now costing them farm land too? Is green energy costing farmers greenbacks or offering them options?

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