Opponents outnumber supporters at solar farm meeting

Invenergy officials explain the proposed Lone Oak Solar Energy Center to area residents in April at Elwood Jr./Sr. High School.

ANDERSON — Invenergy officials said the defeat of a requested tax abatement by the Madison County Council could make a proposed solar farm financially impossible.

The County Council on Tuesday voted 4-3 to deny the request for a traditional 10-year tax abatement for the Lone Oak Solar Energy Center.

The proposed $110 million project would generate 120 megawatts of electricity in northern Madison County, Invenergy officials said.

“We’re evaluating all our options,” Katya Samoteskul, project manager for the Lone Oak Solar Energy Center, said following the vote.

“Without the tax abatement the project is not fiscally viable,” she said. “This is a bad sign for the project.”

Samoteskul said she doesn’t know where the project now stands.

During the council meeting, she said the tax abatement would have reduced the cost of the electricity to a potential buyer of the power.

Samoteskul said the Lone Oak Solar Energy Center would be competing with renewable energy resources nationwide to provide electrical power and the reduced cost through the tax abatement was necessary.

Mary Solada, attorney for Invenergy, said the company could immediately apply again with the county for the tax abatement.

She said there will be discussions with the company concerning the future direction for the project.

Company officials said the 10-year tax abatement would have saved the company $5 million in personal property taxes over the 10 years.

The company told the council it would still be paying $24.2 million in additional taxes over the 35-year life of the proposed solar farm.

Prior to the vote, Samoteskul said the company agreed to make a one-time payment of $1 million to Madison County for economic development.

That was $150,000 more than announced when the tax abatement was requested by Invenergy.

The Madison County Board of Zoning Appeals voted earlier this year to approve two special exceptions for the development.

The BZA in May approved a special use for the Lone Oak Solar Energy Center on 850 acres.

A second special exception was approved Sept. 24 by the BZA for an additional 350 acres.

Invenergy said the additional acreage was required because of the 500-foot setback from nonparticipating property lines set by the BZA at the May meeting.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter

@KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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.

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