The Indiana General Assembly is poised to replace the hodgepodge of county wind and solar power regulations with statewide standards aimed at providing regulatory certainty to landowners, power generators, and utilities.
House Bill 1381, sponsored by state Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, sets minimum requirements for commercial renewable power installations that, if enacted into law, would supersede any local regulations that are more stringent.
It also would open for development the 31 Indiana counties that have enacted bans on renewable power projects.
Much of the legislation mirrors the Lake County solar power ordinance enacted last year, including a 50-foot setback from nonparticipating property owners and a 25-foot maximum height for solar panels at full tilt.
The state proposal, like the county’s, also includes a ground cover mandate, a requirement that funding be set aside for decommissioning costs, and an obligation to minimize glare and interference with roads and wireless signals.
Soliday said there is a significant, and growing, appetite for renewable energy at Indiana businesses and utilities, but the Hoosier State currently lacks sufficient solar and wind generating capacity on some days to meet even 20% of the demand.
“In the mornings, the least expensive (wind-generated) electricity is coming out of the Dakotas. But by late morning the transmission lines aren’t big enough to carry it,” Soliday said. “One of the most rapidly rising costs in electricity is transmission congestion.
“Our 22 largest manufacturers all want renewable energy — and they’re going to get it. They’re going to get it either buying it from other folks and paying the transmission cost, or we’re going to generate some.”
The measure is opposed by the Association of Indiana Counties and the Indiana Association of County Commissioners, who decried the usurpation of local control by the General Assembly.
About a dozen Hoosiers also spoke against the measure during Wednesday’s meeting of the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee with concerns ranging from the loss of agricultural land to the alleged bird-slaughtering effects of power-generating windmills.
Ultimately, the Republican-led committee voted 12 to 1 to advance the measure to the full House for possible amendment and a decision on sending the proposal to the Senate.