County catching some rays?

Motorists driving on State Road 135 could be getting a new roadside view next year: 4,320 solar panels.

Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Cooperative is considering building a solar farm outside Trafalgar, spokeswoman Mary Lynn Beaver said. Earlier this year, the cooperative announced that it would install 10 solar farms throughout the state and is considering two areas near Trafalgar for one of the farms, Beaver said.

Each farm would need between 8 to 10 acres to fit the 4,320 panels. The solar panels will create enough energy to power 150 homes per year, or about 20 million kilowatt hours of energy per year, Beaver said.

Both sites that Hoosier Energy is considering are near State Road 135. No permits have been filed with the county yet, Beaver said. Hoosier Energy most likely will lease the land from the property owner instead of buying it, she said.

Hoosier Energy officials are focusing on highly visible locations for the solar farms, such as along major highways, Beaver said. With solar farms being so close to popular areas that residents drive by, the panels will cause motorists to ask more questions about solar energy and educate the public about the advantages of solar power, she said.

If Hoosier Energy decides to put a solar farm in Johnson County, residents who receive energy through the Johnson County Rural Electric Membership Cooperative will benefit from the solar energy collected, according to Johnson County REMC chief executive officer Chet Aubin.

Hoosier Energy is teaming up with 18 local rural electric cooperatives in southern Indiana and southeastern Illinois for the solar farm initiative, according to a news release.

One solar farm is under construction in Harrison County, and two others are up and running, including one in New Castle, Beaver said. She said it will cost the company $2.7 million to install the solar farms and connect them to existing substations.

The other seven locations have not been announced, but Hoosier Energy wants all solar farms functioning by the end of 2016.

Once sites are finalized, workers will need about 90 days to construct the solar panels and put them in place and another 30 days to connect the solar panels to the grid, Beaver said.