According to Solar Energy Industries Association, as of the third quarter of 2021, Indiana had 1,343 megawatts of solar installed.
The Hoosier state is 18th in the nation for solar power though, in 2020, it also ranked third in the U.S. in total coal consumption. Coal combustion creates sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions, which can be harmful to human health and the environment.
Wind and solar energy are among the least expensive forms of electric generation in the country, according to the Indiana Renewable Energy Guide, released in December 2020 by Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI) and Great Plains Institute. Costs of both solar and wind energy systems are forecast to continue declining.
“Increased market activity in renewable energy development will therefore continue well into the future,” says the guide.
Along with the guide, the ERI and Great Plains Institute developed a model solar ordinance for counties to follow.
Steve Eberly, executive director of Hoosiers for Renewables, said he is working with more than 40 Indiana counties where solar projects are proposed.
“Indiana communities are facing complex land-use planning decisions, specifically in regard to renewable energy,” said an April 5 news release from Purdue University, which unveiled a statewide study on land-use regulations for wind and solar projects.
The study examined commercial solar and wind development and zoning ordinances for unincorporated areas. Of the 82 counties with planning and zoning, 56% had county zoning ordinances with standards specific to commercial solar energy systems and 62% with standards for commercial wind energy conversion systems. Eight counties do not permit commercial wind in any zoning districts.
Ordinances were found to vary in the tools used to regulate renewable energy and define commercial solar and wind as uses.
“Utility-scale solar and wind development provides direct economic benefits to the community where they are located through property tax revenue and other agreements,” says the ERI/Great Plains report. “In one example, White County signed an economic development agreement with the renewable energy company seeking a 350-turbine project in their jurisdiction. As a result of that agreement, the county has received over $9 million in payments to compensate for the value of new development that has been precluded in the area of the wind farm. The wind company has also made $35 million in payments to landowners in the county. These payments boost local spending power and translate to a higher level of local income taxes. Furthermore, the county receives around $2.4 million from personal property taxes annually because of the wind farms.”
Last year, Indiana regulators approved a 195 MW Hardy Hills Solar Project, also proposed by Invenergy, based in Chicago. Hardy Hills is set to go online in 2023 in Clinton County. Hardy Hills is one of 23 solar projects across the nation listed on the Invenergy website.
Eberly said there are more solar projects proposed in Indiana than the power grid can handle at this time.
One World is a weekly column delving into the responsible use of our resources. Comments and suggestions are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org.