While not set in stone, the odds of Spencer County becoming home to the state’s largest solar project are about as good as they can be following a productive meeting between the county council and representatives from Orion Renewable Energy Group. The project, operating under the name Troy Solar LLC, would see a massive investment in solar panels on 800 acres of leased farmland between the communities of Troy and New Boston along Indiana 545. At a Sept. 19 meeting, the council agreed to move forward on designating the selected farmland, which local property owners are leasing to Orion Renewables for the project, as an Economic Revitalization Area. A public hearing on this matter, as well as proposed abatements to expedite construction, was conducted Monday evening with Justin Wolf of Orion Renewables and legal representative for the project Eric Schue making their case for Troy Solar.The proposal has changed, somewhat since the last meeting. Wolf explained that the solar market has been shaken somewhat by the expectation that new tariffs will be levied on imported solar panels, owing to a trade case brought by a number of American manufacturers. Though not yet settled one way or another, companies are factoring in those tariffs in their decisions, buying up panels and reducing available stock.
While there is some fear in the industry that many projects will be put on hold due to this federal action, Wolf explained that the proposed project north of Troy should not be among them. Instead, the expected completion date for Phase 1 has merely been pushed back to 2021. Anticipated equipment shortages have also pushed the upper range of the project’s first phase up about $10 million, with the costs projected anywhere from $50 to $80 million. This is a sizable shift to be sure, but one Wolf believed would not overcome the market forces behind the push for new solar power.