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Citizens ask for 12-month solar moratorium

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

The Henry County Commissioners adopted rules on wind turbines last December. Now, a coalition of Henry County residents and property owners want to see something on paper regulating solar farms.

Rural Henry County resident Judy Walker asked the commissioners this week to pass a resolution enacting a 12-month moratorium “on any solar energy system being proposed or that might be proposed in the future in the county.”

Walker spoke Wednesday on behalf of a citizen-created Solar Ordinance Committee. The other committee members are Bobbi Plummer, Gary Rodgers, Marsha Gratner, Melissa Elmore, Rosie Richey, Susie Eichhorn and Patsy Conyers.

Walker said a moratorium would give the county time to prepare a formal solar ordinance to “protect the citizens and the county.”

“Unless this is done, there are no rules, restrictions or regulations in place for the building of solar projects. Therefore, neither the people nor the county is protected,” Walker told the commissioners Wednesday.

The Henry County Commissioners did not vote on the moratorium that night, noting they had not had time to properly read it before Walker’s request.

The commissioners have scheduled a work session at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20 to meet with the solar committee.

“We are simply requesting time to allow us to prepare an ordinance and the commissioners and the county attorney to review and then collaborate on adopting the best ordinance possible,” Walker told The Courier-Times.

Walker said county regulations and restrictions will stop builders from going on their own specifications.

“Before any solar project can be started there should be studies required of environmental impact, wildlife protection and electromagnetic fields just to name a few,” she said.

A comprehensive ordinance should also include permit fees and stipulations on road use, decommissioning and recycling plans, Walker said.

“There need to be regulations in place for sound, infrasound, glare, reflection, location, height, size, visual screen landscape, complaint avenue, type, liability, solar panel types, drainage, TV, radio and internet reception, microwave reception, fencing and many more issues that need to be regulated and/or restricted,” Walker added.

She told the commissioner the citizen committee has already started preparing a solar ordinance for the county.

“Hopefully you, as commissioners and we, as citizens, will be able to work together to enable the county to adopt a sustainable solar ordinance that will protect the citizens and county now and in the foreseeable future,” Walker said.

No plans filed for new solar farms

Walker said some property owners in Henry County have already signed solar leases. She did not say Wednesday where in the county those properties are located.

Zoning Administrator Darrin Jacobs said, as of Thursday, no company or individual had contacted the Henry County Planning Commission about developing a solar farm in Henry County.

Corey Murphy, president and CEO of New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp., told the newspaper Friday no one had reached out to his office, either, about wanting to build an new industrial or commercial solar farm in the area.

Henry County REMC built the first solar farm in Henry County in 2015. The solar field near Ind. 3 and Interstate 70 is comprised of 4,320 solar panels, each producing 300 watts of electricity. Hoosier Energy estimates the solar farm generates enough electricity to power 150 homes per year.

Indiana Municipal Power Agency (IMPA) opened a solar field in Spiceland in January 2018. The solar park has 1,983 panels on just under seven acres. The facility is rated at .53 MW, enough electricity to power approximately 75 homes, according to information provided by IMPA.