Duke Renewables says it plans to build $180M solar farm

Solar power: Duke Energy Renewables Solar LLC is planning to construct a $100 million solar farm in southern Vigo County. The company Tuesday went before the Vigo County Council.Submitted photo

Duke Energy Renewables Solar LLC is planning to build a $180 million solar farm in southern Vigo County and northern Sullivan County.

The company Tuesday went before the Vigo County Council seeking a 10-year tax abatement on property and 10-year tax abatement on personal property of $100 million, as about 60 percent of the project is in Vigo County.

“It is a proposed project built in two counties, both Vigo and Sullivan counties,” which is being called Hoosier Jack Solar, said Tyler Coon, business development manager for Duke Energy Renewables Solar.

The company proposes a 175 megawatt, ground-mounted solar generation facility, would provide enough electricity to power 35,000 homes. Of the $100 million in Vigo County, about $95 million is for new solar equipment, with $5 million for site preparation, Coon said.

The solar farm would be placed on a 1,500-acre site that includes 896 acres in Vigo County (in Pierson Township and Linton Township) and 604 acres in Sullivan County. It is located on reclaimed coal strip mine currently being used for crops.

The site is connected to a 138-kilovolt Duke Energy Indiana transmission line through a utility-owned interconnection switching station near Farmersburg.

Duke Renewables will lease the site from Farmer Jack Land Company LLC and Hoosier Jack Land Co. LLC, both owned by Terre Haute businessman Greg Gibson, for the solar project.

In 2013, Gibson worked with the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp. to market a 4,650-acres site called the Hoosier Jack Mega Site for business development. The reclaimed site formerly was Peabody Coal’s Farmersburg Mine.

Steve Witt, president of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., told the Council it is difficult to attract traditional industry to a reclaimed site “because concerns of heavy loads,” as companies may have to remediate soils of any environmental issues if ground is disturbed below certain depths. Witt said a solar farm is an ideal use for a reclaimed brownfield.

Duke Energy Renewables’ solar project, Coon said, has an expected lifespan of 35 to 40 years. Coon said a second lease for the same amount of time could be enacted with the property holder. If not, all solar panels and equipment would be removed after the lifespan of the project.

Coon said Duke Energy Renewables Solar, while under the umbrella of Duke Energy, is a separate business unit and the solar project would not impact electrical power rates for Duke Energy Indiana, another unit of Duke Energy.

Duke Energy Renewables solar farm would generate about $50 million in taxes over 35 years - about $29 million (with tax abatement) in Vigo County and $21 million in Sullivan County.

Under a tax abatement, the company would have more than $7.9 million in taxes abated in Vigo County over a 10-year period, but would pay more than $4.9 million in taxes over the same period, Coon said. An abatement gradually phases in taxes over the 10 year period.

When completed, the solar farm would have three permanent jobs with an estimated wage of $40 to $45 per hour for $240,000 total annual or $80,000 annually each, according to a tax abatement presented to the Council. Coon told the Council the site could have between two to four employees.

Construction is slated for 2023, with power generation by mid 2024. It will create a maximum of 200 construction jobs over a 12 to 18 month period.

Tuesday evening’s meeting was a “sunshine” or informational session. The council will conduct its votes April 13.

Other council business

In other business before the Vigo County Council:

• Commissioner Chris Switzer told the Council the county attorney’s position has moved to a part-time position for 2021. Michael Wright will remain as county attorney, but will transition out of the position at the end of the year.

Switzer said the difference in pay would be used to pay attorney Joel Modesitt of Modesitt Law Firm as a contracted attorney through this year. Full-time pay for the position is $83,351, which is reduced to $27,645 as a part-time position for the remainder of this year.

• Vigo County 911 Director Vickie Oster seeks three $1,500 annual stipends to be given to shift supervisors and $1,000 annual stipends to three assistant supervisors.

Oster previously asked the Council for $500 for stipends, but said, “After thinking about the last request, I realized $500 per person was not going to make any impact to entice people to take on the added responsibility,” Oster told the council. The total cost is $7,500 and funding would come from two full-time dispatch positions that have not been filled, as well as part-time and overtime money that is not being used.

• Vigo County Courts seek to increase the salary of its court system administrator to $50,580 from $43,531 in base pay. The increase is for additional duties for Zoom meetings and internet court proceedings, as well as the use of two video courts when a new Vigo County Jail is opened.

• Commissioner Brendan Kearns told the Council commissioners have previously provided a market salary study of other counties for an administrative assistant position. Commissioners seek to change the title of a current secretary to administrative assistant. Commissioners seek to increase the salary to $44,090 from $37,583.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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