Proposed Hoosier Energy solar power farm facing zoning hurdles

The Associated Press

 

An energy cooperative's attempt to build a solar farm in a southern Indiana county is on hold while county officials try to solve a zoning issue.

ELLETTSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — An energy cooperative's attempt to build a solar power farm in a southern Indiana county is on hold while county officials try to solve a zoning issue.

Hoosier Energy is looking at putting a solar farm west of Ellettsville in Monroe County, about 55 miles southwest of Indianapolis. The Herald-Times reports Hoosier Energy's plans are part of an effort to construct 10 one-megawatt solar arrays throughout southern Indiana and southeast Illinois before the end of 2016.

The Monroe County Plan Commission is looking at creating a new solar farm zoning definition because of a backlash from neighboring residents who oppose rezoning the farm land for commercial or light industrial uses.

The county is considering a new zoning classification for renewable energy sites. But not all renewable energy processes are as passive as solar panels — wind turbines, for instance, loom over the landscape, threaten birds and bats and create wind noise, so officials are worried that classification might not work.

Commissioners are considering amending landscaping stipulations, setback distances and other issues that didn't apply to solar farms.

"Our urban definition of landscape may seem silly," Monroe County plan director Larry Wilson said. "If you have an isolated site in the middle of a field, you don't need the buffering you would in an urban setting."

Hoosier Energy spokeswoman Mary Lynn Beaver says to complete the 10-megawatt project before its 2016 deadline, zoning decisions and construction will have to move quickly.

The Monroe County Plan Commission meets again on Aug. 18.

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