Small landowners not buying in on proposed solar panel project in Pulaski County

Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 6:08 PM EDT
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Pulaski County, Ind. (WNDU) - In just under one week, officials will decide whether or not to bring the largest solar panel project in the country to Pulaski County.

Officials say a developer from Pennsylvania is proposing a near one billion dollar project that would turn 4,500 acres of ground into a solar panel development in just two years.

However, some small landowners, like Pulaski County resident Jennifer Knebel, says approving a special exemption to move the project forward may be too much, too soon.

“We don’t know what the positive impacts are going to be. No one can tell us what the positive impacts are going to be,” Knebel says.

Knebel, who has been around farming her whole life, says she and several other residents had no idea about the project until one week ago.

“This will be the largest in the United States. This will be double the size of the current largest one in the United States. That’s scary,” Knebel says.

It is a scary thought that Pulaski County Community Development Commission Executive Director Nathen Origer explains is uncommon ground the county has not seen before.

“There is not a lot of data on a project of this magnitude. This is significantly larger, in terms of acreage and generation, than most projects that have been built are,” Origer says.

A lack of data and experience causing concerns about possible lowered property values, affects on wildlife, and agricultural sustainability for several local farm owners.

“That, in itself, is going to impact 220 homeowners, small farmsteaders in this area that have been given one week notification of this,” Knebel says.

And even though Origer says the project could bring in a lower carbon footprint, reduce electricity cost, and potentially be a great tax benefit for a lack-luster county budget, concerns from landowners like Knebel are legitimate.

“We understand they have to do things that make sense for their financial plans. It’s not about that. It is about the lack of transparency. They’ve all know this was going on, but there has been no consideration or respect or regard for anyone else living in this county who’s going to be tremendously impacted,” Knebel says.

The Pulaski County Board of Zoning Appeals are set to vote on a special exception for the project at a hearing on Monday, July 27th.

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