GREENFIELD — Greenfield’s first solar farm features panels that track the sun, absorbing enough energy over the course of the day to provide power to 400 homes annually.
Tuesday, officials gathered for a ceremony to officially open Greenfield’s first solar farm on an undeveloped plot of land off Windswept Road, celebrating the city’s dedication to relying on a renewable energy source rather than coal and nuclear production.
Greenfield is one of just 15 Indiana Municipal Power Agency member communities to have a solar park. The power agency, which provides wholesale electricity to the city, spent the summer constructing a 10,450-panel solar farm on a parcel of land donated to the city about a decade ago.
City officials in February sold the 17-acre plot to IMPA for about $170,000. The agency, which provides electricity to the city that is then passed on to residents, then invested about $4 million in the project, developing land that has in years past served little purpose.
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The Greenfield solar panel farm is the second to pop up in Hancock County recently. NineStar Connect built a 230-panel farm in 2016 near county roads 600N and 600E to serve its power customers.
Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth, according to energy.gov. More than 173,000 terawatts of solar energy strike the Earth continuously, enough to cover the world’s total energy use more than 10,000 times.
It’s a critical energy source lauded by environmental activists because it’s renewable, produces no carbon emissions and has little impact on surrounding land, unlike coal and nuclear production. And the demand for solar energy continues to rise.
The amount of solar power installed in the United States today generates enough energy to power more than 5 million homes, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
In an effort to find sustainable and low-cost ways to provide power to the communities it serves across the state, the Indiana Municipal Power Agency has constructed solar farms in 15 communities, including in Pendleton, Crawfordsville and Peru. Additional solar parks are under construction in Anderson and Spiceland, according to a news release.
Providing reliable and environmentally responsible power to the 61 communities IMPA serves is a top priority for the agency, said president and CEO Raj Rao.
The local project has been in the works for about a year, and construction was completed recently.
City and IMPA officials lauded the project Tuesday, saying it signals to businesses and residents the city believes in and supports the green movement.
The Greenfield farm is the first IMPA site to be equipped with panels that track the sun, adjusting as the sun moves throughout the day, maximizing the amount of energy they generate, said Jack Alvey, IMPA’s chief operating officer.
IMPA will maintain the park and receive all the energy the 2.84 megawatt solar park generates — enough to produce the energy needed to power 400 homes annually.
While residents won’t see benefits of the solar park reflected in lower electricity bills, city officials say the park will have a lasting impact on the community.
They hope to use the park to teach school children and residents about renewable energy while attracting new business looking to settle in a community that uses renewable energy.
Surrounded by Greenfield-Central school children, Mayor Chuck Fewell said the panels are the future of energy production.
“We’re showing up front we’re going to be a green community,” Fewell said. “We’re proud to have this.”