Solar panels set for county

By this winter, motorists driving on State Road 135 will see more than 4,000 solar panels near the road, collecting and distributing the renewable energy to southern Johnson County residents.

As a push to have more renewable energy sources throughout the state, Hoosier Energy electric company picked the Trafalgar area as one of 10 sites in southern Indiana to be the home of a new solar farm. The energy from the solar panels will be used to power homes that use Johnson County REMC for their electricity.

Hoosier Energy purchased about 10 acres of land off of State Road 135, just south of State Road 44, and will start construction on a $2.5 million solar farm within the next month, said Hoosier Energy renewable energy project developer Josh Cisney.

Hoosier Energy wants at least 10 percent of their energy to come from renewable resources such as wind, water and solar power, Cisney said.

The area along State Road 135 was selected because of its visibility to motorists, lack of trees nearby and lower cost to purchase land. It will join other farms throughout the state, including in New Castle and Monroe County.

Officials studied land along Interstate 65, U.S. 31, State Road 37 and State Road 135 before deciding on the parcel just north of Trafalgar, said Johnson County REMC chief executive officer Chet Aubin. The area along State Road 135 was the best choice, Aubin said.

One of the goals at each site is to have the solar farm visible to motorists passing by because that promotes renewable energy and hopefully piques drivers’ interest in using an alternative energy source, Cisney said.

About 4,100 solar panels will be installed on the land, and will eventually collect enough energy to power about 150 homes per year on average, Cisney said. Each panel will eventually collect about 1.5 kilowatt hours of energy per day, totaling about 2 million kilowatt hours per year, Cisney said.

Motorists will see rows of the dark solar panels along State Road 135, and the devices will rotate east to west each day to follow the sun, Cisney said. Panels will be installed more than 100 feet off of State Road 135, with a fence around the farm, he said. The solar farm will not have any employees on-site on a regular basis, except for occasional mowing or maintenance, Cisney said.

Hoosier Energy also is building solar farms in Monroe County and Clark County this summer, Cisney said. The company built three solar farms in Henry County, Harrison County and Greene County last year, and another three will be constructed in 2017, he said.

Johnson County REMC will invite local schools to tour the solar farm and learn more about renewable energy, Aubin said. A shelter house will be built on the land for tours and field trips, he said.

A dedication ceremony is scheduled for late September or early October, but could be pushed back due to delays in construction from weather, Cisney said.