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Elkhart County Solar Project comes to its final votes

solar panels
Jennifer Weingart

Elkhart County officials will vote on a large-scale proposed solar project this weekend.

Kansas City-based energy firm Savion wants to build a solar farm on 850 acres of land south of Millersburg. The facility would generate up to 150 megawatts of power, or the equivalent of almost 16,000 homes.


“There are no power plants within 50 miles of where the project is located,” lead developer Sara Mills said. “So having power in the immediate area provides some security for people who live in Elkhart County and the businesses that are there – you know, when the power goes out, the power isn’t coming from a distant area. There’s a source that’s local.”


Mills said the project would also provide a stable source of tax revenue for the county. She said accounting firm Baker Tilly estimated the project could bring in almost $22 million in property taxes over 35 years.


“Once the project is installed, it’s maintained, but it’s basically just operating,” Mill said. “So the county can count on those tax revenues for that 30 to 40-year life of the project.”


Savion currently has agreements with two property owners for a 30-year lease. If the company decides not to renew, the land will return to the owners and the solar equipment would be removed.


Opponents of the project have said it will decrease property values for homes and businesses neighboring the solar farm. The County Board of Commissioners voted in August to table the project until fall in order to weigh those arguments.


Mills said Savion is working with neighbors to keep the farm relatively separate.


“It’s a big change, particularly for people who live in the local area. They’re used to looking out their windows at farmland, and they’ll be looking out at something different here,” she said. “We’re putting in vegetative screening – shrubs and trees – to screen the view for neighbors and trying to work with them on exactly where they want to place that.” 


The project will come before the Elkhart County Council Saturday and the County Board of Commissioners Monday for final approval. 


“We’ve had a lot of public support in the county that I’m really grateful for, so we’re optimistic that the project will move forward,” Mills said.


You can livestream the council meeting here and the commissioners’ meeting here.


Contact Gemma atgdicarlo@wvpe.orgor follow her on Twitter at@gemma_dicarlo.


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