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Lawmakers discuss bill to set standards for solar, wind farms

Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 5:44 PM EST
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Ind. (WNDU) - Some say Indiana is a “uniquely unfriendly” place to do business for companies that generate renewable energy.

Now, some state lawmakers are pushing a bill to bring about a dramatic climate change.

H.B. 1381 would establish state standards for the location and construction of wind and solar farm projects and then prevent local communities from imposing standards that were stringent.

There hasn’t been much interest in building large scale renewable energy projects in Elkhart County…yet.

“One of the discussions that has started at the potential 700-acre solar farm option,” Elkhart County Commissioner Susan Weirick told 16 News Now.

But those discussions are taking place as Indiana lawmakers are discussing how to make the state more renewable energy friendly. “On some days, Indiana is buying almost 80-percent of their electricity from out of state,” warned Ind. Rep. Ed Soliday, (R-Valparaiso) said at a February 10th committee hearing on the bill.

Rep. Soliday also indicated that Indiana’s 22 largest manufacturers wanted to buy renewable electricity but faced high transmission fees for doing so.

“Indiana has until now left its renewable energy future up to a disjointed patchwork or local government regulations,” Will Eberly of RWE Renewals testified at the February 10th hearing. “We’ve already seen those regulations destroy more than $5.5 billion worth of investment across the state.”

The patchwork regulations would be replaced with what critics see as a one size fits all approach that takes away the ability of county residents to control their own destiny.

“When things are mandated by the state for all 92 counties, it’s not helpful for the individual counties. We are all unique. We all have our own issues. We all have our own personalities and people that live here, the people are still the ones who should drive the government, not the government driving the people,” stated Commissioner Weirick.

Rarely have people shown up in greater numbers than they have in past fights over proposed wind farms.

Public opposition in the past killed a wind farm project proposed for Marshall County. “We did pass an ordinance, but we made it restrictive for those wind farms,” said Marshall County Commissioner Kevin Overmeyer. Next time, county residents may be powerless to say ‘no.’ “I understand that if there are some push back from local county officials, that these wind and solar farms can go to the IURC, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and it will probably be granted.”

This week, the Elkhart County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to HB 1381.

The bill passed out of committee and chould head to the full house floor by the end of this week.

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