Public hearing for proposed solar farm in Pulaski Co.

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 6:10 PM EDT
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PULASKI COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - Solar panels could be erected onto Pulaski County land if the local Board of Zoning Appeals approves a special exception for the developer, Next Era Energy Resources.

“We look for willing landowners who want to partner with us to exercise their rights to develop on their own property. And then we look for counties that have good ordinances for solar development, which Pulaski County has gone through an extensive process,” commented Zach Melda, Director of Renewables for Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio.

The proposed Moss Creek Solar Project encompasses 1,021 fenced in acres in Beaver Township and would create local jobs, including 300 positions to build the farm. The company website indicates up to 200 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable energy could be generated in addition to millions in county tax revenue.

“The costs in the solar industry have come down. They are cost-competitive with every other type of energy facility,” remarked project manager Ally Sexton, of Next Era Energy Resources.

The special exception is for the developer to build commercial solar panels on a zoned agricultural area.

“It’s because it’s a larger entity beyond just you or I placing solar panels on our properties,” explained Karla Redweik, Pulaski County Building Inspector.

The group, Pulaski County Against Solar, released a statement to 16 News Now:

“Solar power generation is one of the worst sources for producing energy, with low efficiency ratings. Moss Creek Solar LLC is seeking a special exception to install an industrial solar plant on 1,620 acres that are zoned agricultural. We are concerned that this farmland will not be returned in a condition suitable for crop production after the solar plant is abandoned.

We are very concerned about the negative impact on property values, the impact on our wildlife and environment, and the loss of valuable farmland.

If approved tonight, this would be approximately 11,000 acres of farmland that would be loss to unreliable, intermittent, unpredictable solar energy generation.

The residents of Pulaski County are trying to preserve our rural character and prime farm ground. Solar companies are targeting rural communities throughout the cornbelt, removing thousands of acres of valuable farmland.”

Melda responded: “We’re now able to create solar farms that are much more efficient than they were even just a couple of months ago with the advances in solar technology.”

He added the project plan takes into consideration the future use of the farmland.

“The project – it has a lifespan. We’re talking 25 to 30 years at which point a decommissioning bond is in place with the county that can remove the project, and it can be returned to its natural state and be put into agricultural production again,” Melda stated.

If the BZA denies the special exception, Next Era Energy Resources has an opportunity to reapply. The earliest the farm could begin operations is December 2023.

This project is not the same as the other proposed solar farm in Pulaski County, which has yet to come into fruition.

The public hearing is at 6 p.m. Monday at the Pulaski County Highway Garage and is also being livestreamed here.

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