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286-acre solar farm OK’d for Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS – A sprawling solar farm planned for Indianapolis’ south side faces opposition from nearby residents worried its solar arrays will create irritating glints of reflected sunlight and harm property values.

Minnetonka, Minn.-based Sunrise Energy received approval Tuesday to develop a 130-acre site and an adjacent 156-acre plot in southwestern Marion County following an often contentious meeting of the Metropolitan Board of Zoning Appeals.

The Indianapolis Business Journal and WTHR-TV report that nearby residents told the board they strongly oppose the $56 million project. Some said they feared reduced property values and problems with drainage and future development.

Homeowner Ted Dobracki said he worries the glare of sunlight reflecting off the solar panels will hurt local property values, especially the 300 homes in the adjacent subdivision where he lives.

“Even if it’s legally permissible it will be lousy,” Dobracki said.

He said he’s most concerned about the “visual impact” of the solar panels and six-and-a-half-foot high fence and security wire that will encircle the site, but also worries about humming noises from the farm’s equipment.

Sunrise Energy plans to install the solar panels and power stations to generate electricity for Indianapolis Power & Light Co. as part of a 15-year contract. IPL has agreed to buy 30 megawatts of power from the firm.

Sunrise expects to begin construction in July or August and finish within eight months.

Sunrise’s managing director, Dean Leischow, said the project’s local effect will be minimal because the solar panels will be “quite low to the ground” and the glare won’t be as significant as residents fear.

“It glares about as much as a lake. There’s about 2 percent reflectivity,” he said.

Leischow said solar panel manufacturer First Solar Inc., headquartered in Tempe, Ariz., will supply the equipment and operate the plants after they are finished.

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 will play a significant role in the project. Federal tax credits will reimburse the investors about 30 percent of the $56 million to $57 million in projected costs, Leischow said.