Lone Oak solar farm

Some residents in northern Madison County fought to keep out the Lone Oak Solar Farm.

ANDERSON – A moratorium in effect since 2019 to prohibit the construction of commercial solar parks has expired.

The moratorium expired on Wednesday, which means companies interested in starting a commercial solar park can now submit an application under the terms of the existing ordinance adopted in 2017.

A more restrictive solar ordinance has been presented to the Madison County Plan Commission that could include a property value guarantee for surrounding land owners and limits the placement of a solar park to no more than 20% of the county’s prime agricultural land.

The Plan Commission meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the council chambers of the Madison County Government Center.

Brad Newman, director of the Madison County Planning Department, said last week that three companies are interested in developing commercial solar parks in the county.

Those sites include areas outside of Lapel and Markleville and Lafayette Township.

Last November the Plan Commission and Madison County Commissioners extended the moratorium through Wednesday.

No extension of the moratorium was discussed during Monday’s commissioners meeting.

Denise Spooner, who is part of the group opposing the Lone Oak Solar Park, said the expiration of the moratorium is concerning.

“It should be a concern to the entire county,” she said. “For 2 ½ years we have been pushing and asking questions to get a better ordinance to protect county residents.”

Spooner said she has talked to people in the Markleville area who indicate the planned solar park there would be capable of generating up to 150 megawatts of electricity.

“The moratorium should be extended until the new ordinance is passed,” she said. “I’m concerned for other areas of Madison County.”

Katya Samoteskul with Invenergy, the company developing the Lone Oak project, said last week the company is hopeful the county will approve a tax abatement for the project.

“Invenergy still has options on the properties that are part of the project,” she said. “We are hoping to start construction as early as next year.”

This week the Howard County Commissioners made public a newly proposed solar ordinance.

The 24-page ordinance lays out the general rules and guidelines any and all solar energy installations — from large-scale commercial to residential and business rooftop installations and more — must meet to be installed and operate in the county.

Changes and additions made to the “model solar ordinance” largely pertain to county approval of lot coverage, allowing the county Board of Zoning Appeals or commissioners to reach agreements or set conditions regarding any solar energy project and provides more details regarding the process of when a solar project has run its course or is abandoned, also known as decommissioning.

The ordinance is being introduced as ENGIE, a French multinational electric utility, is seeking approval for a crucial special exemption permit to operate a 200-megawatt solar farm on nearly 2,000 acres of farmland just southeast of Greentown.

​Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.