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ENGIE trying again for Greentown solar farm

Kokomo Tribune|Tyler Juranovich|March 31, 2022
IndianaZoning/PlanningPhotovoltaic Solar
ENGIE, a French multinational utility company, is trying once again to bring a more than 1,000-acre solar farm just outside of the town of Greentown a little more than six months after its previous attempt was halted by the county Board of Zoning Appeals board. Earlier this month, the company filed an application for a special exception use permit to operate a solar farm just southeast of Greentown. Specifically, the company’s application is to operate a power generation facility.

ENGIE, a French multinational utility company, is trying once again to bring a more than 1,000-acre solar farm just outside of the town of Greentown a little more than six months after its previous attempt was halted by the county Board of Zoning Appeals board.
 
Earlier this month, the company filed an application for a special exception use permit to operate a solar farm just southeast of Greentown. Specifically, the company’s application is to operate a power generation facility.
 
The request will go in front of the Howard County BZA at the board’s July 26 meeting, according to the Kokomo-Howard County Plan Commission. The location for the meeting is the Central Middle School auditorium. 
 
The solar project — dubbed Emerald Green Solar — is mostly identical to the one proposed by the company in the summer of last year.
 
According to ENGIE’s special exception use permit application, the project will occupy 1,874 acres of land — though the company says the total area within the project’s fence will be less than 1,300 acres — and ... more [truncated due to possible copyright]
     
ENGIE, a French multinational utility company, is trying once again to bring a more than 1,000-acre solar farm just outside of the town of Greentown a little more than six months after its previous attempt was halted by the county Board of Zoning Appeals board.
 
Earlier this month, the company filed an application for a special exception use permit to operate a solar farm just southeast of Greentown. Specifically, the company’s application is to operate a power generation facility.
 
The request will go in front of the Howard County BZA at the board’s July 26 meeting, according to the Kokomo-Howard County Plan Commission. The location for the meeting is the Central Middle School auditorium. 
 
The solar project — dubbed Emerald Green Solar — is mostly identical to the one proposed by the company in the summer of last year.
 
According to ENGIE’s special exception use permit application, the project will occupy 1,874 acres of land — though the company says the total area within the project’s fence will be less than 1,300 acres — and generate 200 megawatts of electricity.
 
All of the details are exactly the same as what the company proposed last year, except for one key detail: The setback from property lines of non-participating property owners is now 300 feet, an increase from the 200 feet the company proposed last year.
 
The increase in the setback is due to the solar ordinance the Howard County Commissioners passed last November, which, among other things, mandated any county solar project be 300 feet away from any permanent structure on the property of a non-participating landowner.
 
“We took a look at the new stipulations, did some additional listening and learning in the community ourselves, and decided we could do even more than simply comply with the new standards — striving to protect not only the property rights of our participating landowners but also ensuring we’re acting as good neighbors for the entire community,” Tom Green, project manager for ENGIE Solar, said in a email.
 
ENGIE has also added a few new details to the project this time around in hopes of sweetening the deal.
 
According to Green, ENGIE is developing a “Health and Safety Plan” to coordinate with local fire and emergency services. One of the concerns about the solar farm came from the local Greentown Volunteer Fire Department, who told the BZA that their small department was not equipped or trained to fight a possible electrical fire.
 
ENGIE is also, according to Green, reaching out to non-participating landowners to see if they want to participate in a direct payments program from the project itself. He did not specify the amount of the payments.
 
“We recognize that our participating landowners will be enjoying lease payments for farming the sun and that those payments offer stable, reliable income for many family farms — so we want to ensure that their neighbors have a chance to participate in some of the direct economic benefits in addition to the significant tax revenue generated for Howard County and local schools,” Green said.
 
ENGIE’s request comes a little more than six months after the five-person BZA board voted 3-2 to deny ENGIE’s 2021 special exception use permit request. County rezoning laws allow an applicant to file for a special exception use permit again after 180 days from being denied. It can be filed sooner than that if the petition contains “major changes.”
 
ENGIE’s plans to build a solar farm faced immense pushback from community members, particularly those with homes near the project. It’s likely the company’s second attempt will face just as much opposition.
 
The opposition’s concerns largely stemmed around the solar project’s possible negative effects on nearby property values, who would decommission the project if ENGIE were to go out of business and the reduction of some of the county’s farmable land.
 
The project also had its share of supporters. Some of the landowners whose property would be utilized for the solar farm said the project would allow them to diversify their income streams and give their families a reliable income stream for a few decades. Others supported the project for renewable energy reasons and wanted Howard County to embrace green energy.
 
ENGIE pitched Emerald Green Solar as an economic windfall for the county and local school system, Eastern Howard School Corporation.
 
The company estimated the solar farm will generate an additional $30 million in tax revenue for Howard County, including $19 million for the Eastern Howard School Corporation, over the project’s lifespan of 30-40 years.
 
*UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect ENGIE's hearing in front of the Howard County BZA has been moved from May to July. 

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Source:https://www.kokomotribune.com…

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