VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Vigo County is in the middle of several large projects aimed at growing and bettering the community: a convention center in downtown Terre Haute, a casino, a new VA clinic. So what’s next? One group says it should be a solar farm.
Casino owner Greg Gibson has teamed up with Duke Energy Renewable Solar LLC, with the goal of bringing Hoosier Jack Solar to the community. During a presentation to the Vigo County Council Tuesday night, project developer Tyler Coon explained the project is “consistent with the goals of the Vigo County Comprehensive Plan.”
“There’s retirement of coal plants that are coming fairly regularly in Indiana. Production is on the decline and in the state and in this region, we’re trying to attract more and more businesses and economic growth to those areas,” he began. “The very first thing that those companies are typically asking for now is ‘What’s the renewable energy portfolio that you have to supply our demands in this area?”
Coon noted that the solar farm, to be located on 1,500 acres of land near E. Co Road 1200 N. would be developed on former strip mine land. Nine hundred acres of the farm is planned in Vigo County with another 600 acres in Sullivan County.
Rick Burger, District Manager for Duke Energy said keeping the project local was important for them.
“Not every community will have this. What an opportunity to have a 1,500 acre solar farm? There’s little ones around here that are 10, 15 acres. But this is massive,” he said. “Our promise to the community is that it will be done right.”
The project would not only increase local tax revenue, Coon noted, but would also provide an economic boost during the 12 to 18 month construction period by bringing in hundreds of jobs and creating additional business for local hotels, restaurants and stores.
He said the site was ideal for many reasons, including space.
“One is the transmission lines themselves. We have to build these near where there is a large enough transmission line to receive the capacity coming in. But the second aspect in this case is the land,” Coon stated. “The availability of the brownfield land and no real neighbors or any residential neighbors that are close to the project. This type of project is typically a very quiet type of neighbor anyway. But it often brings more community concern if there’s a lot of residential homes nearby.”
According to Coon, the methods of construction and equipment installed would not have a detrimental impact to the land. In fact, he said, the project includes planting and maintaining a year-round vegetative cover of native grasses and forbs that would preserve or even improve the quality of the land and provide a habitat for butterflies, bees and other species.
The plan is to start construction in 2023 with operations to begin by mid-2024.