Second solar farm slated for Indy airport

A second massive solar farm is slated to join the one already producing electricity on the front doorstep of the Indianapolis International Airport.

Airport officials have agreed to lease about 76 acres of land at the airport to the same private developers who created the current, 75-acre solar farm by the Interstate 70 exit to the airport’s passenger terminal.

The cost of the new solar farm is estimated between $20 million and $25 million, according to Kurt Schneider, president of developer Indy Airport Solar Partners II LLC. Work already is under way to prepare the site for the array, which will consist of about 37,500 photovoltaic panels.

“What makes this one unique is that the panels will be able to track the sun,” Schneider said. “It will increase production by 15 percent.”

Indy Airport Solar Partners II LLC is owned by local firms Johnson-Melloh Solutions and Telamon Corp. They also partnered to create the airport’s first solar farm, which was completed in 2013.

With 44,000 solar panels, the first farm is located east of Col. H. Weir Cook Memorial Drive as it curves from I-70 into the airport. The new solar farm will be located along the opposite side of the drive.

Solar Partners is shooting for completion of the new farm by the end of this year, Schneider said. It has an agreement to sell the electricity to Indianapolis Power & Light Co. Inc.

The combined farms likely will make up the largest airport-based solar field in the country, and will generate enough energy to power about 3,150 homes per year, Schneider said.

The deal is attractive to the airport as a way to generate revenue from undeveloped land, said airport spokesman Carlo Bertolini.

The ground lease is for 30 years. For the first 15 years, Solar Partners will pay $225,000 annually. After that, it switches to a revenue-sharing agreement.

The project still is awaiting approval of a waiver filed with the Federal Aviation Administration that would authorize the use of the land for revenue-producing and non-aeronautical purposes. The waiver is in the midst of a public notice stage that will end on Oct. 16.

The same process was required for the first solar farm, and Solar Partners is confident the project will get the go-ahead, Schneider said.

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