PRINCETON — The Gibson County Council and Gibson County Commissioners met jointly in a special public meeting Tuesday to learn more about a proposed solar farm project near Francisco.
The 200 megawatt solar project proposed for hundreds of acres in eastern Gibson County would generate enough power for around 35,000 homes, according to developers. The Elliott Solar Project is proposed by Tenaska in partnership with Capital Dynamics.
Tenaska is the developer of the proposed project, and Capital Dynamics would own and operate the solar farm over the anticipated 35-year life of the project.
Tiago Sabino Dias, executive vice president of development of Arevon Energy Management, spoke to members of the public gathered Tuesday, as well as commissioners and council members.
Dias said looking to place a solar farm in Gibson County has a lot to do with the best place for solar being places with high solar resource and looking for growth.
He said southern Indiana has the best solar resources in the state. Capital Dynamics is currently working on projects in Pike and Knox County, as well.
Also presenting to the room was Benoit Allehaut, managing director on the Clean Energy Infrastructure at Capital Dynamics. He said he wanted to make clear he wanted no controversy with the project.
“This has zero impact on the coal plant,” he said. “This isn’t an either/or. It’s an and.”
Dias went through a slideshow for those in attendance, touching on solar fields impact on the area they are placed, as well as timeline for the project.
The presentation showed the impact would include minimal water use, little demand on local services, and no emissions. Dias said there is no noise from the panels and they are no more than 12 feet off the ground.
There are also no proven health risks associated with solar farms, he said.
He said the company is required by law to follow protection and mobility plans for wildlife and also works to mitigate storm water runoff and manage vegetation.
At the end of the panels life span, they are removed and the land is returned back for owner use.
The proposed project has an operational date projected for 2023.
Following the presentation, Dias and Allehaut took questions from the crowd.
They addressed where the energy would be used, following a question regarding if the energy produced here would stay in this area.
Dias said the grid is all interconnected, and most likely the energy created would be consumed before it got farther out.
“In practical terms the energy will be created and consumed in the state of Indiana,” he said.
Tuesday’s special meeting was also set for the presentation of an analysis completed by Baker Tilly to assist with consideration of a possible tax abatement for the project.
Gibson County Economic Development Corporation President/CEO Paul Waters and Gibson County Attorney James McDonald have asked the Gibson County Council to approve a resolution to designate the area of the project southeast of Francisco in Center and Barton Townships as an economic revitalization area.
Designation of an ERA will allow the developer to request tax abatement if, following a future public hearing, the council decides to adopt a confirming resolution.
The analysis presented showed data in the case of a total abatement and in the case of declining abatement over a period of five years.
In the case of 100% abatement, estimated property tax rates were presented for both Center Township and Barton Township.
Without abatement presented rates in Center Township were: $1.4020 in 2025; 1.3446 in 2026; 1.4098 in 2027-2029; and $1.4098 for 2030-2059.
With 100% abatement presented rates were: $1.5463 for 2025-2029; and $1.4098 for 2030-2059.
Without abatement presented rates in Barton Township were: $1.4571 in 2025; $1.4016 in 2026; $1.4646 in 2027-2029; and $1.4646 in 2030-2059.
With 100% abatement presented rates were: $1.5919 in 2025-2029 and $1.4646 in 2030-2059.
The estimated property taxes were also presented in the case of declining abatement.
Without declining abatement the presented rates in Center Township were: $1.4020 for 2025; $1.3446 for 2026; $1.4098 for 2027-2029; and $1.4098 for 2030-2059.
With declining abatement the presented rates were: $1.5463 for 2025; $1.4979 for 2026; $1.4865 for 2027; $1.4594 for 2028; $1.4340 for 2029; and $1.4098 for 2030-2059.
Without declining abatement the presented rates in Barton Township were: $1.4571 in 2025; $1.4016 in 2026; $1.4646 in 2017-2029; and $1.4646 in 2030-2059.
With declining abatement the presented rates were: $1.5919 in 2025; $1.5476 in 2026; $1.5370 in 2027; $1.5116 in 2028; $1.4877 in 2029; and $1.4646 in 2030-2059.
Tuesday’s meeting was for the commissioners and council members to hear information and no vote was set at that time.
Prior to public comment, Commissioner Steve Bottoms commented as a lifelong resident of East Gibson on the need for economic development in that area.
Bottoms said he had also spoken with members of the Francisco Town Board who were supportive of the project.
He also said he believed comments from Allehaut that they would not build a project and then leave.
“I know you said some projects don’t come to fruition, but I hope this one does,” he said.
During comment, Julie Elmore said she didn’t hate or love the plan. She struggled with the idea of selling her home after a solar farm is built on the property behind hers.
She said she couldn’t imagine someone coming and deciding the house was for them after looking of the back porch and seeing solar panels.
“East Gibson also needs people,” she said.
She also questioned the reflection of the sun coming off of the panels into people’s homes.
Allehaut addressed that with an explanation of the trackers the panels sit on moving to the necessary angle to utilize the sun. He said they won’t ever be horizontally facing the sun.
Bob Schmits spoke in favor of the project, and said he had leased 70 acres to be used.
He said the land was marginal farm land and this was an opportunity for them to have chance.
There was also public comment with questions toward where the panels would be purchased from, and if there was an American-made option
Allehaut said they work to use as much local as they can, looking for local places to purchase cables, switches and other materials. A decision has not been made yet for where the panels will be purchased from.
He said they also want to use local labor so it is not a group of people coming from out of state to build and move on.