GREENFIELD — Solar panels could be installed on the city’s west side as soon as May.
This week, city officials finalized the sale of about 17 acres of city-owned land to the Indiana Municipal Power Agency, giving the green light for construction to start on the city’s first solar panel farm.
The Indiana Municipal Power Agency plans to build a 11,030-panel solar farm on an undeveloped plot of land off Windswept Road. The agency, which provides power to the city that is then passed on to residents, will invest about $4 million in the project to develop land that has served little purpose since it was donated to the city about a decade ago, said city utilities director Mike Fruth.
The Greenfield solar panel farm with be the second to pop up in Hancock County in the past year. NineStar Connect built a 230-panel farm near county roads 600N and 600E to serve its power customers.
Environmental activists have lauded solar energy as one of the most accessible alternative energy sources, as solar power produces no carbon emissions and has little impact on surrounding land, unlike coal and nuclear production.
The Indiana Municipal Power Agency offered $10,000 per acre for the land for a total of roughly $170,000, which the city readily accepted. The money for the land will be put in the city’s general fund to later be used for land purchases in the future, said clerk-treasurer Lori Elmore.
Prep work on the land could start immediately, with construction of the farm beginning in May, Fruth said. Weather permitting, construction will be completed by fall.
In an effort to find sustainable ways to provide power to the communities it serves across the state, the Indiana Municipal Power Agency has constructed solar farms in 13 communities, including in Pendleton, Anderson and Peru.
Fruth said he’s eager to bring solar energy to the city and produce power for residents here. The solar farm, which would produce enough energy to power about 500 homes, could save the city some money on the power it purchases from IMPA because it would be produced locally; savings estimates have not been released, but officials do not expect customers to see significant decreases in their bills.
IMPA will cover all costs to build the project and pay for maintenance and upkeep expenses in the future.
The project will be built north of the Sawmill subdivision. Neighboring land owners were given a chance to voice their concerns about the project early on. Neighbors worried the solar panels would create an eyesore; as a compromise, city officials agreed to help cover the cost of landscaping for neighboring properties.
A 7-foot fence will also be constructed around the farm to protect the panels, which aren’t expected to create much noise, IMPA officials say.