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Duke Renewables says it plans to build $180M solar farm in Vigo, Sullivan counties

By Howard Greninger, Tribune-Star

Contributed 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 went before the Vigo County Council on Tuesday.

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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% 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

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

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 on April 13.

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