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Developer plans solar farms on 286 acres in southern Marion County

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A Minnesota company has pegged two sites on the southern outskirts of Marion Country for a $50 million-plus solar farm project.

Sunrise Energy Ventures LLC wants to develop on a 130-acre parcel in Decatur Township and a 156-acre site directly to the east in Franklin Township. The Minnetonka, Minn.-based firm plans to install solar panels and power stations in each location to collectively generate electricity for Indianapolis Power & Light Co. as part of a 15-year contract.

Sunrise on Tuesday received a necessary blessing from the Metropolitan Board of Zoning Appeals. The company had requested variances of use and development standards for the properties.

Residents near both sites objected to the planned projects at an often contentious BZA meeting Tuesday, fearing reduced property values and problems with drainage and future development. Board members unanimously approved Sunrise's request for the larger solar plant, located at 10321 E. Southport Road, and came down 3-2 in favor of the smaller operation at 5901 W. Southport Road.

Sunrise expects to begin construction in July or August and finish within eight months. IPL has agreed to buy 30 megawatts of power from the firm.

Solar panel manufacturer First Solar Inc., headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., will supply the equipment and operate the plants after they are finished, according to Dean Leischow, managing director for Sunrise.

Sunrise and First Solar will maintain equity stakes in the solar farms, which will pool funding from Sunrise, First Solar and other private investors.

Government money also will have a hefty role in the venture. Federal tax credits will reimburse the investors about 30 percent of the $56 million to $57 million in projected costs, Leischow said.

Aaron Freeman, the City-County Council representative for District 25 in Franklin Township, supported the project, citing a lack of business in the township.

“We absolutely need development in Franklin Township,” Freeman said. “Would we prefer a business over solar panels? I guess. But we need the development. … I see this as a step.”

The plant in Decatur Township was harder-pressed for endorsements from government officials.

City-County Councilor Jason Holliday of District 22 urged the zoning board to reject Sunrise’s request. He echoed a charge led by Pat Andrews, who chairs the land use committee for the Decatur Township Civic Council.

Among Andrews' objections were that the solar plant would block future housing development and posed issues with sewage.

“This parcel is the worst parcel they could have chosen in our entire township,” Andrews said.

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  • @Patrick
    no doubt this solar plant will create jobs, but at what cost. solar energy isn't to the point that is profitable. this has been proven. building these plants never results in profits especially once all the tax incentives expire. libs can continue to think with their hearts and ignore facts. yes, i want to end pollution, but isn't as easy as libs thinking we can simply that all we have to do is build solar and wind plants and shut down coal operations. The costs of building these things outweigh any minor benefit in small amounts of jobs and tiny amount of electricity produced through solar panels. This is equivelant to every gov run program that is majority of waste. Look at Head Start. To a lib if you take a 7 billion dollar program and help 3 kids improve their academics its worth it. Libs think all we have to do to fix economy is build solar plants and we instantly create jobs and free renewable energy. sounds great. libs never let reality stand in their way. no difference in thinking gun control will eliminate mass murders, raising taxes on hedge fund managers will magically solve our debts, etc. lets build this plant for millions, put some people to work and up tax payers burden to keep this operation from going bankrupt, and pretend that this solar plant is different from every other green energy project that fails under obamas fraud of a presidency and ignorant policies
  • Haters love to hate
    Why don't we wave our magic wand and have a abracadabra company develop something on that (presumably) previously useless land? When one solar company goes bankrupt, it is foolish of you to extrapolate that to the whole. Check the facts on the renewable energy loans Obama put in place. What you're referring to is a small % of the whole loaned out. Did you expect a 100% success rate? Please stop falling for Fox noise. Manufacturing panels = jobs. Installing them = jobs. Manning and maintaining the stations = jobs (think wind farm). Keeping previously unused/underused land the same = your idea. PV panels do not burn coal. Coal produces tangible pollutants. I guess keeping the coal plants around to cause asthma and other harmful side-effects keeps plenty of doctors and lobbyists in employment. Are those the jobs we want? Some people act. Some people hate. Try not to fall into the latter category.
    • dumb
      awesome more tax payer money going to business where obama crosses his fingers and hopes for the best. how many of these companies need to go bankrupt or funded by taxpayers while never turning a profit before realizing they are a waste. libs think with emotion and have good intentions, only problem is facts and results never get in the way for them. Mr. Gadget had it right, this place isn't going to be some mecca for jobs, especially once its a failure and sits empty. A solar plant in the middle of Indiana? Libs are out of there minds. Meanwhile, our energy prices will continue to go up as obama continues his wasteful spending on useless projects while buying fuel from mmiddle east instead of using our own resources.
    • Win-win
      More renewable energy and less land for suburban sprawl = win-win in my dictionary.
    • MrGadget is Right
      MrGadget is absolutely right that construction of 286 acres of solar panels will happen spontaneously and therefore will result in zero jobs. It is also crystal clear that the entire operation will maintain itself, so there will be no jobs after construction, either. It would be one thing if the electricity from this taxpayer-subsidized boondoggle was used for something useful like the manufacture of guns or other instruments of death - I could get behind a project like that. But to fritter that electricity away on frivolities like heat, lighting, or non-lethal business activity is quite simply another socialist outrage.
    • Fleeced Again
      "Federal tax credits will reimburse the investors about 30 percent of the $56 million to $57 million in projected costs." THAT'S $17 MILLION TAXPAYER DOLLARS! When will this madness end? Consuming 286 acres...how much food could be produced with that? No one works at a solar farm...this makes no jobs, provides tremendously expensive erratic power...for who? IPL customers with increasing rates, apparently.
    • Why do you "need development"?
      “We absolutely need development in Franklin Township,” Freeman said. “Would we prefer a business over solar panels? I guess. But we need the development. … I see this as a step.” I don't have any position on this, because I know so little about it, but I find the Franklin Township councilor's statement to be strange. What is this a step toward? Is something else going to be developed because there will be a large installation of solar panels nearby. The Franklin Township school district is a bit of an unsustainable entity since it has so few businesses within its boundaries that can be taxed while providing no burden, i.e. no students. Maybe that's to what he was referring. I wonder what this will pay in taxes.

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