BZA meeting on solar farm

Opponents of a proposed 850-acre solar farm fill the room Aug. 29, 2019, for the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals meeting at the Madison County Government Center.

ANDERSON — The window of opportunity for potential developers of large-scale solar energy facilities in Madison will remain open through Sept. 9.

The Madison County Commissioners declined to vote Monday on a recommendation by the county plan commission to extend a moratorium on large-scale solar energy developments.

The plan commission had voted June 9 to extend the moratorium through Jan. 7, 2021.

The current moratorium expired July 1, which means a new developer can apply for a special-use exception to construct a solar energy facility of more than 50 acres in the county.

Without a vote by the commissioners, the action taken by the plan commission won’t take effect until Sept. 9.

Following the Monday evening meeting, county Commissioner Kelly Gaskill said no vote was taken on the moratorium because the rewriting of the county’s solar energy ordinance, which has been discussed for two years, is not yet completed.

Brad Newman, planning director for Madison County, said he hopes to have a draft of the new solar energy ordinance ready by the end of the month for review.

Responding to a question from county Commissioner Mike Phipps, Newman said the moratorium didn’t cover the proposed Lone Oak Solar Energy facility in northern Madison County that was approved by the county board of zoning appeals for Invenergy.

“Are we setting up a monopoly?” Phipps asked.

Newman said no other company can apply for a large-scale facility greater than 50 acres while the moratorium is in place.

“The only way we would set up a monopoly is by inhibiting competition by denying any large-scale solar farms in the future,” Newman noted.

Last December, the plan commission recommended a one-year extension of the moratorium, but county commissioners extended it for just six months.

Once the county’s new solar energy ordinance is adopted, the moratorium will be lifted, Newman previously said.

The moratorium was put in place after the board of zoning appeals approved the proposed Lone Oak Solar Energy facility in northern Madison County.

The BZA has twice voted for the $110 million project, which is expected to generate 120 megawatts of electricity.

The initial 850-acre special use was approved in May 2019 at the request of Invenergy. It included a 500-foot setback from non-participating property owners. A second vote, in September 2019, approved an additional 350 acres.

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.