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Counties Develop Solar Ordinances and Rate Structures |

As more counties across the state seek to attract solar panel installations to their communities, county governments in Noble, Steuben and DeKalb have each developed solar ordinances and fee structures to regulate developments. in each of the counties.

The DeKalb County ordinance came as an Auburn Renewables company began construction on a 55-acre project in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city of Auburn. Before construction began on the project, developers at the Sweitzer Family Foundation petitioned the county for a tax abatement on the project.

This request was met with some hesitation as DeKalb County Board members were not all in agreement on approving the tax abatement. After two votes, the board approved the reduction by a vote of four to three.

In November 2021, Noble County Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance that sets basic rules and regulations for the installation of commercial solar fields in rural areas.

The creation of the solar zoning ordinance was spurred by state efforts last year to establish statewide zoning laws regarding the issue. Noble County officials wanted to have their own prescription on the books before that happened.

The issue in both counties was timely as several solar companies had expressed interest in building facilities in each of the counties. Geenex, a North Carolina-based company, contacted Noble County landowners and offered them $900 per acre on a long-term lease, averaging $1,200 per acre, to create a large solar field in North Central Noble County.

Residents of DeKalb County also received several inquiries paying similar prices per acre in the eastern part of the county. These companies are looking to develop projects on 2,000 to 3,000 acres. These large projects would produce 300 megawatts per year.

Each county’s ordinance contains setback provisions protecting parcels of land bordering the projects. The Noble County setback is 50 feet from property lines and 300 feet from any point on a home’s foundation.

The DeKalb County ordinance states that commercial solar businesses must observe a setback of 400 feet from the main dwelling without a buffer and 200 feet with a natural buffer of 30 feet. Buffers around projects help hide signs from neighboring properties.

Noble County also has a fee structure in place for businesses wishing to build in the county. It won’t be cheap, but it will be cheaper than other counties in Indiana.

A 3,000-acre project in Noble County would have a graduated fee schedule according to Noble County Plan Director Teresa Tackett. The first 40 megawatts would cost $1,000. For the next 41 to 80 megawatts, the charge would be $750 per additional megawatt. For every megawatt above 80, companies would have to pay an increased demand fee of $500 per megawatt.

The fee for a 100 megawatt project would be $1,000 for the first 40 megawatts, an additional $30,000 for the next 40 megawatts, plus an additional $10,000 for the remaining 20 megawatts. The total would be $41,000.

The application fee for a 200 megawatt project would be $91,000. The fee for a 300 megawatt project would be $141,000.

DeKalb County has yet to discuss a fee schedule for new projects.

Steuben County began solar ordinance discussions in January and approved an ordinance to allow commercial development in the county. The ordinance authorizes the development of solar panels in agricultural zoned land, with one special exception.

“There are going to be requirements to go with solar power,” said Vina Conti, administrator of the Steuben County Plan Commission.

These requirements will be determined at a future meeting of the Planning Commission. Once approved, the requirements will be sent to Steuben County Commissioners.

LaGrange County currently has no ordinances.

The Auburn Renewables project is expected to go into service this spring.